What Will You Do Next? The Secret To Stop Wasting Time

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
— Steve Jobs
What Will You Do Next? The Secret To Stop Wasting Time

You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Don't let the simplicity of this statement fool you into thinking it's just a clever play on words. The man who wrote those words had his first book rejected 39 times before it was published in 1975. Zig Ziglar's See You At The Top, went on to sell over 1.6 million copies and is widely used by corporations, schools, government agencies, and correctional institutions-wherever motivation and self-improvement are major goals. The scariest part of an idea is starting because entrepreneurs like you dream big. You probably have a larger than life vision of your idea that seems almost impossible. The secret to turning the impossible into possible? You need an idea of where to start and what to focus on.

I bet you have at least one goal or desire you're procrastinating on. And I can speak from personal experience. The longer you wait, it only feeds that whispery voice in your head that tells you again and again that you're an impostor. If you have a larger than life idea, you're going to need to learn to dance between impatience and patience. Author James Clear describes it as "the impatience to have a bias toward action, to not waste time, and to work with a sense of urgency each day." But the often overlooked and far more important counter to impatience is having "the patience to delay gratification, to wait for your actions to accumulate, and to trust the process."

As an entrepreneur, you make dozens of decisions each day. Each decision either moves you forward or fills your time with tasks that are unnecessary or energy-sapping. When you have an effective way to make decisions based on what’s truly important to you, you flow through your day by pursuing what you value and making progress towards what you truly desire.

So, how the hell do you determine what's important?

If grandma gives you her famous don't-share-it-with-anyone-else-or-you're-out-of-the-family meatloaf recipe, what's the first thing you're going to do?

Check the fridge and pantry to see if you have all the ingredients!

To determine what's important, first you need to get the lay of the land and get a sense of what you already have on your plate. There are countless apps you can use to capture all your ideas and tasks, but you're not going to use any of those to start. I know you all too well. Don't use researching "the best productivity app" to delay getting underway. Remember what I said? This is a moment to practice impatience and focus on action. Grandma didn't get a delicious meatloaf recipe by searching Google, she got to cooking.

At the end of today, you're going to have a list of everything you'd like to get done. We're raiding your fridge and pantry to see what you have in stock before we go adding more crap to your already busy life.

Grab a piece of paper and start listing what you need to get done. It's better to go with everything and the kitchen sink. That way you can capture anything that is taking up mental energy and taking away from your ability to focus.

Does the thought of capturing everything bring on a sense of overwhelm? Like trying to cook grandma's meatloaf without a recipe to guide you? Here are some questions to help you start the process. Serial entrepreneur Taylor Pearson has honed in on these prompts over the last decade of work.

Remember, you are not taking action on what you're writing down. Take a deep breath. You're peeking into the fridge and pantry to see what you have on hand.

  • Do you have specific projects you are working on right now? List each of the projects and next steps associated with them.

  • Do you have a bunch of to-dos lying around in different places like apps on your phone, post-it notes, or documents on your computer? Go through all of them and get them in one place.

  • Do you have commitments to others like your boss, partner, kids, direct reports, or clients?

  • Do you have communications you need to send or respond to? Phone calls, emails, texts, social media posts, etc.

  • Do you have anything you need to submit? Reports, evaluations, proposals, articles, summaries, status updates, or meeting notes?

  • Do you have meetings that need to be set up or done?

  • Do you have any financial tasks that need to get done? Budgeting, forecasting, talking to the bank or investors?

  • Do you have any planning that needs to get done? Business plans, marketing plans, upcoming events, presentations, or conferences?

  • Do you have any marketing tasks that need to be done?

  • Do you have any sales tasks?

  • Do you have any administrative tasks? Legal, insurance, staffing, or training?

  • Do you have any professional development tasks that need to get done? Training, areas to research, skills to develop, books to read or study, classes to take?

You might be asking, what the hell was the point of that, Chris? I knew I had a couple of things to do, and now I have a list that I'll be passing down to my great-grandkids in my will.

When you're lost in the woods, every bush, tree and rock starts to look the same. Your best bet is to head for higher ground. Writing down everything you need to get done is like climbing a tree to let you look over the entire horizon. You have the clarity of seeing everything, but without the pressure of moving blindly through the forest with no sense of direction.

Sure, you could read this and keep doing what you're doing and have some level of success. But take a moment to be radically honest and ask, where would you be if you had a level of clarity to take action on this list? Where are you today compared to where you could be? Where would you be today if you had started last week? Where would you be today if you had started last year? Where would you be today if you had started five years ago?

This piece is a bit of a cliffhanger. I'm not going to leave you high and dry, stuck up in a tree, but you will have to wait until next week. We'll move onto step number two and look at prioritizing this list. And setting goals based on what's most important to you and what you want to accomplish in the next 90 days.

When making plans, you're going to start thinking big to a point that scares you. But when making progress, you're going to start thinking small. 

We often overestimate what we can do in a day, but lose sight of what we can accomplish in a year.

Sam Jones is a fan of a lot of things. So many that he can't quite choose what to pursue. But, his curiosity in all things creative is the engine that drove him to find a way to have conversations with artists that he admires.