That’s the great phrase that President Jed Bartlet used to ask his staff what was next on their agenda.
It usually came at the end of an episode to signal that he was ready to move on to the next big thing.
Cue staff giving him the next thing to do and the end credits.
In the world of work, we often get stuck with the small stuff. The things pressing in on us from clients – which are important – but they’re not the Next Most Important Thing.
I’ve been pondering the Next Most Important Thing for a while.
Working on – not in the business – is a phrase I keep hearing over and over.
So I’ve been working to identify what that thing is.
When thinking about the small scale – emails, support tickets, image changes, plugin updates, domain name renewals, meeting time changes, do we have any milk in the fridge – it’s impossible to think about the important things.
Not just the important things but the most important things.
Remove yourself from yourself
Take a step back and consider what you need to think about.
Thinking about thinking is all very meta, but the more we think about thinking, the easier it becomes.
We abstract the process until we can identify where we get stuck. We often get stuck when we think something is too hard or when we become overly emotional.
Or we may become paralysed by fear. I wrote about fear and writing last year, then did exactly that – I didn’t carry on.
Partly due to circumstance, partly due to not knowing what to write and partly due to fear.
Sometimes you need to involve a mentor to find out what you need to do next.
Earlier in the month I got that encouragement to keep writing and so I’m back to it – as a taster for January. Thanks to Chris Marr and the great people at The Content Marketing Academy for that.
It’s plain to me what I need to do.
Just get on with it.
I’ve re-read what I wrote last year and I need to do the Next Most Important Thing.
What if you have a whole list of Next Most Important Things. I have that list.
In fact, it’s a list of lists.
Lists are great, but sometimes they let me hide behind a feeling that I’ve got too much on to do the big thing.
I deal with it by choosing an easy item from the list.
The Next Least Important Thing.
Then I work my way up the list until everything is done except the important things. The hard things. Not hard to do, I do plenty of technical or challenging things every day, but things that are hard for clients so they give them to us.
It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
“Hey, I’m not a procrastinator, I’m a do-er. I get things done, look at all the things I’ve done.”
Did I do the Next Most Important Thing?
The Thing that is best for me?
So, it’s time to be firm, be tough, get into that abstract mental state where you can identify what I’m doing.
And do the hard bit
Up until now it’s all been procrastination, I mean planning, but now I have to do the Next Most Important Thing.
Attack it, Dan.
Get on with it.
Do as much as you can of it.
I know it’s not going to go away and I just know that once I’ve started, it won’t be so hard.
In fact, once I’ve started I might find that I enjoy it.
When it comes to doing the important thing, introspection needs to lead to doing something. Contacting someone, researching something, set something up. Something!
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