by Jada Balster, vice president, marketing at Workfront
Do you ever feel you’re so swamped with just trying to get work done that you don’t have time to think beyond your daily task list? According to Workfront’s State of Work report, you’re not alone – 65 per cent of UK knowledge workers regularly feel this way.
Arguably, even more of us have been there and know the feeling only too well, especially during peak seasons. We feel stress in our bones, a feeling like we’ll never catch up.
In his book Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Get Work Done Workfront CEO Alex Shootman suggests a remedy for this problem that I have found incredibly useful: step back from all the busyness for a moment and focus on your “best next action”.
This concept helps workers systematically achieve milestones on their way to reaching their key initiatives and extraordinary goals.
To begin thinking about your best next action, you need to get to basics. “Planning tends to be an expansive process,” Alex says. “You usually start from a simple point – the definition of a strategic objective – and then try to encompass every possible eventuality and option along the way. But the better model is contractive. Break your extraordinary goal into key initiatives, milestones, and best next actions.” He also advises teams to get a clear sense of who does what, when it will be done, and what “done” looks like.
Once you’ve pinpointed those things, find your best next action. To do this, ask, “What’s the one thing we’re going to do within the next two weeks that will take us closer to a milestone?”
By focusing on the one thing you should do within this short timeframe, you can strip away extraneous tasks that ultimately don’t give you the results you’re looking for. If you can find – and execute – your best next action week after week, you’ll eventually end up where you want to be. It’s like using your headlights to get to your final destination at nighttime. You don’t have to be able to see the whole journey ahead of you, you just have to be sure that you’re going the right way moment to moment, the whole time.
So forget trying to do it all. In fact, question whether you actually should do it all. Ask yourself how much you can cut so that you cut everything down to what matters. As the author James Clear writes, “We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.”
By focusing relentlessly on your best next action instead of worrying about all possible solutions you might try, you will reach the level of success you’re seeking. Best of all, you’ll start to feel like you are in control of your work instead of your work being in control of you.