New Year’s Resolution: Do the Next Thing

Don't worry about minute-by-minute scheduling; just do the next thing.Do this. Don’t do that. Be this. Don’t be that…

New Year’s resolutions sometimes sound like the barking of a Marine sergeant dealing with raw recruits on a sub-zero morning. Personally, I’m a fan of warm covers on sub-zero mornings, and I tend to ignore barking of any kind (just ask my terrier). But I still like to go through the process of thinking back over the previous year, considering what went well and didn’t, and focusing on what I’d like to make happen in the new year.

I’ve discovered that simple is usually better when it comes to resolutions, so I try to boil down what I want to accomplish into one sentence. This year, it’s

“Do the next thing.”

Not very specific, is it? The secret is that I already know my long-term goals and have a strategic path marked out to help me meet them. Every day, I do three kinds of work: creation, communication, administration (the CCA cycle). I try to do them in that order, because creation requires a fresher mind than administration, while communication can eat up the entire day if I don’t postpone it until the creative work is done.

When I arrive at my desk in the morning, I look at my “Create” list. I pick the next thing and begin working. When I find my mind wandering, I move to the communication tasks. Those include everything related to speaking or marketing; preparing handouts and PowerPoint slides, blogging, social media, minor website tweaks, answering client e-mails, and more. There is creativity in much of this, but because it’s deadline-oriented and so closely tied to an immediate audience, it’s quicker and simpler than the larger long-term projects I work on in the morning.

Finally, I do the administration things I don’t enjoy. This includes anything to do with numbers– invoicing, paying bills, balancing bank statements, following up on orders or inquiries, and other routine and often tedious tasks. I do these last because I’m already at my desk and can’t make up an excuse to escape without doing them, and they really need to be done. If I tried to do them in the morning, I’d procrastinate so long that I wouldn’t get anything done, and I’d waste the most creative time of day on tedious, non-creative tasks.

The CCA cycle is a system that works for me, and I think that “do the next thing” will be a pretty achievable resolution this year. If it happens to not work, I’ll let you know!