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Let's take a close look at the first question of processing, which is, what is the next step? When processing, it's critical that you figure out just the next action step, just the next thing you must do to move this item, this piece of paper, this email--whatever it is you have in front of you--forward, toward completion. Make sure that you take the time to think about this, and make a decision. It only takes about five to ten seconds of mental effort to make a clear decision about what the next step is.
But many people jump over determining the next step. It's part of the reason why items get stuck in the inbox forever. A person picks up an item, they sense that something is needed to complete it, and then they put it back in the inbox. Please don't do that. Once you've decided what the next step is, ask yourself, is this something that I want to be doing with my life? That may sound like a very broad question, but it's very common for people, particularly in an information- overloaded world to get themselves engaged in things they really don't want to be doing with their life.
They overload themselves with activities simply because the activities presented themselves, not because they made a conscious choice to participate. So if it doesn't fit the things that you want to be doing with your life, then disengage from it, find a way to get out of it, find someone else to fulfill the obligation, or just plain tell yourself, "I'm not going to waste any more time working on this thing." Also, be aware that the next step may be 'waiting for', meaning you're waiting for something to come to you.
Waiting for is a type of action. When you get to the next step of processing, which is when it will be done, you make a decision about how long you should wait. But sometimes, the next action is to just simply wait. Also, consider, should this next step be delegated to someone else? Many of the tasks that you do, while they're important, are not necessarily things that you should be doing. Perhaps, someone else is better qualified to do them, or perhaps it's a more valuable use of someone else's time, where your time is more valuable when spent doing other things.
And finally, when considering the next step, remember that if you do decide to delegate something out to someone else, whenever you delegate out, it's always 'awaiting for in', meaning if you do delegate you also need to create a next step for yourself reminding you that you're waiting for them to complete it. A 'delegate out' always means a 'waiting for in'. So, in summary, when you ask yourself what the next step is, make sure that you focus on just the next action step.
If it isn't something you want to be doing with your life, then disengage from it. If you need to wait, waiting for is a type of step or action. Sometimes the best next step is to delegate it to someone else. And whenever you delegate something out, that always creates a 'waiting for in' for yourself.
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