I have had great luck with asking my clients’ one simple question, “what is the next step?” While we sort and organize I have my clients touch each and every item. Organizing is an overwhelming task for all of us. Right now, take a look at the pile of papers on your desk or the junk drawer that needs organizing and you will break out in a cold sweat. But if you take just one piece of paper or one item out of the junk drawer at a time and ask the question. I first came upon this concept in the book “Getting ThingsDone” by David Allen. So let’s use the example of the pile of papers on your desk and go through them. On many paper piles these are the things that you will find; scraps of paper with things written on them, business cards, magazine articles that have been torn out of a magazine, miscellaneous work papers, bills that need to be paid, letters that need to be mailed. But when we look at the pile, all we see is a pile of papers. But now let’s dissect each piece of paper and ask the next step question. You will start to see trends in what your next steps are and that is the valuable piece of knowledge you are going for.
Business cards: The next step could be that you need to enter the information into your contacts list. The next step could be that you need to call the person and make an appointment. The next step could be that you need to give the business card to someone. These are three different actions that could result from one business card and until you know what the next step is, you will not know what pile to sort it into.
Bills that need to be paid: The next step could be for you to double check and make sure that the reflected bill is accurate. The next step could be that you need to buy a stamp. The next step could be that you need to make a check out.
Miscellaneous papers: Some of these papers may need you to simply need to read and review. The next step could be that they need to be filed. Maybe the next step is for you to give it to another person. Or the next step could be that you need to make a photo copy and file the original.
The point is for you to start thinking about that next step. Don’t just look at the pile and see a pile of papers. If you sort your papers into the next task you will suddenly be able to grab the pile and know what to do. Where the next step is for you to make phone calls or appointments, you make the calls all at once. If the next step is to enter in contact information, you can have that program open and get them all done at once. If it is to read and review, have that pile ready to go when you have time while waiting at a doctor’s office or in the car waiting to pick up a child and read it.
I have found that if you start to organize your tasks by the next step, it suddenly becomes more manageable. I don’t feel overwhelmed. I now know what I need to do with that stack. This works with so many things and I am excited for you to start asking yourself the next step question.
To Joyful, Simplified Living,
MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/
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