Identify (Only) the Next Action

Clarity will help you get things done. When you’re fuzzy about what needs to be done, you tend to procrastinate. When you procrastinate, you create a backlog of tasks and overwhelm sets in.

Clearly define your tasks and identify only the next action for your task list.


Lisa Pressman
Lisa Pressman, Seeds of Thought.
Encaustic on cedar, 15 x 13 inches.
©The Artist

Instead of writing “Promote Exhibit” as a task, identify your next action for each area of promotions. “Promote Exhibit” requires many separate actions–it is not a single task. For example, you might have the following items as your next actions toward the “Promote Exhibit” goal.

  • Design postcard for exhibit
  • Write blog post describing exhibit
  • Add new contacts to mailing list database

“Next action” means that the tasks on your list do not have a dependent action that must be taken care of first. Always ask yourself: What's the next action?

Beside each item, you can also write what action you'll take upon completion. Those three tasks above can be more detailed and might look like this.

  • Design postcard for exhibit (next: send to printer)
  • Write blog post describing exhibit (next: send link to blog post on Twitter)
  • Add new contacts to mailing list database (next: print labels/upload to email management program)

Your task list might say “Deliver photographs to gallery,” but you know that you first have to mat, frame, and prepare the photos. Start by adding the first step to your list. You might write it as follows.

  • Mat photos (deliver to gallery by 6/15)

This quick notation–deliver to gallery by 6/15–helps you remember when your project is due.

I consider myself a productive person, but nothing helped me get my task list in shape like working with productivity consultant Leslie Shreve. Leslie was kind enough to be my guest for The Road to Peak Productivity, a teleseminar in which she outlines how to use a task list most effectively in order to have a more productive day. Particularly helpful to me was the difference between Due Dates and Do Dates. Read more.

KNOW THIS———-~> Identifying your next actions will save you from procrastination and overwhelm.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> All of those little baby steps add up!

DO THIS————~>Identify only your next actions. You don’t have a studio boss that’s going to do this for you. You have to make hard choices and be bold with your responsibilities. The motivation must come from within you. Always ask this question: What is my next action for this project?

Give us your tips and listen to the podcast on the Art Biz Blog.

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