The next thing. Isn’t that it? It sounds simple. It is simple. But it’s hard. It’s simple and hard.
The ability to be clear about the next thing is not common. Most people you encounter dialogue or procrastinate around decisions and actions that could be made quickly. In other words, there’s not a lot of difference between the decisions and actions taken a few days or weeks from now than right now. And that inaction and indecision does not match today’s reality of speed. If you hold onto information that doesn’t move to the next step, a backlog quickly develops.
Formerly, executives were the ones burdened to be able to make decisions. Now, everyone has to make decisions because work and information flows in a more matrixed, horizontal fashion. You have to be better to be valuable. To be better comes down to your ability to think quickly, clearly and decisively about the next thing.
Remember those word problems we had to solve in school? I was talking with my daughter the other day about how I approached those in grade school, high school and engineering school.
The goal of those word problems is to obfuscate the things that really matter. Most of the words or points in a word problem do not matter. However, there are a few key facts, stats or data points that are extremely relevant. This is how real life and work actually operate in reality. Most of what is coming at you does not matter. Clarity is about recognizing what does matter and solving problems with decisions and actions around those vital few factors that you can identify.
Some people are much better at getting to the next step because they can make meaning from information efficiently. This is a skill you can develop over time by paying attention and trusting yourself. Yes, you can fail at making wrong decisions and actions. But that is part of building the skill. You have to risk being wrong so you can get better at being right.
If you simply punt and allow someone else to make decisions and actions and tell you what to do next, that may alleviate your fear of failure, but you are falling behind from the flow and pace of business.
Practice one thing relentlessly for the next 30 days. Define the next step and move to action quickly. Don’t let things sit or pile up. Get good at this one skill. Your survival and relevance depend on it.