I would get started if I knew where to start!

Written by Martha on October 26th, 2010

One of my “Aha!” moments as a professional organizer came while reading Take Back Your Life!: Using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to Get Organized and Stay Organized by Sally McGhee. Sally was talking about strategic tasks, or strategic next actions.

Now, I know by definition strategy has to do with a decisive plan of action. How often in everyday life do we actually sit down and deliberately make plans? So I was thinking – without that detailed plan, how can I know what my strategic next action is?

Then I was blown away by the definition – “A Strategic Next Action (SNA) is: The next physically doable action with no dependencies.” That made sense! Sometimes jobs have pre-requisites. Until we identify those pre-requisites as SNAs, we are stuck.

When you have trouble getting started on your To Do list, you may not have any strategic next actions listed. Take one task and break it down into its component parts. For example: you want to bake an apple pie. You must:

____ check to see what ingredients you need beside apples

____ go to the grocery store

____ find your recipe

____ find your rolling pin and pie plate

____ begin mixing, rolling and baking

Which of the five tasks is your SNA? Either of the “find…” statements qualify. The other tasks have dependencies.

Once a large project is broken down into smaller tasks, it is easier to see where to start. Finally, there is a task that can be done immediately! You breathe a sigh of relief and gladly get started. “Aha!”

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