Your lists are getting longer. Your “To-Do” list is overwhelming. Everyone needs “it” NOW. Really, RIGHT NOW! Everything is overdue. Disaster will occur if you don’t do this right now. And now you can’t even find your To Do List. The stacks are getting bigger. And people all around you are saying things like:
“Income is down, we have to send more mail.”
“Income is down, we can’t afford to send any mail.”
“Income is up on this report, but this report is wrong, I’m sure income is down, get me a new report NOW.”
“We forgot to print more receipt forms, we have to get those done now.”
“The Board’s not going to like that, you should write a memo.”
“We don’t have enough help in gift processing, we need help NOW.”
“No one is getting email from me, who can fix that NOW?”
And on and on and on. Overwhelming.
I suspect you know how that feels. Most ministries, businesses and nonprofits are doing more with less (less money and less people). You’re stretched thin and every one needs everything now… no, really, NOW.
Here’s what’s happening most of the time: You’re too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet.
Get the metaphor? Or is that an analogy? Doesn’t matter, anyway, here’s the picture: the kitchen sink is overflowing because the faucet is running and water is cascading on to the floor….the growing pool of water is headed to the living room and your new carpet. You do the logical thing, you grab a mop and you mop…and mop…and mop…and mop. But you never make any headway. You’re so busy mopping that you don’t reach over and turn off the faucet–stop the problem and then mop up the water.
Easy in an analogy (I think that’s what it is), hard in life. How do you stop mopping and turn off your faucet?
Here’s how: do what’s “Next.” I have to credit my brilliant friend Al Doyle for helping me conceptualize this. I don’t care if you’re a multi-tasker or not. Do what’s “Next.” “Next” isn’t what is on the top of your list. “Next” isn’t what you forgot last week and need to do.
“Next” has a very specific definition: “Next” is the single action in your control that will deliver the highest return on your investment with the time and resources you have right now.
“Next” might be making sure that when all those gifts come in, everyone knows how to process, code and receipt them on time.
“Next” might be investing hours you think you don’t have in training an admin person to do tasks so that those tasks become their “Next” not yours.
“Next” might be getting those receipt forms ordered first. Then you can worry about training on the use.
“Next” might be making sure all the appeals and newsletters between now and the end of the year are good to go.
“Next” is always important, in your control and will have maximum impact. Some “Nexts” take hours. Others take minutes. Do the quick ones first, then tackle the long ones…unless you know you won’t have another long stretch of time for “Nexts.” Some of the very best “Nexts” are delegating.
And some of the absolutely best “Nexts” involve building and maintaining relationships with important people in your life.
One key. You may need someone to help you keep “Next” clear in your mind (I do). “Next” isn’t necessarily urgent, but it is always important.
Just turn off that faucet, don’t remodel your kitchen and put in a new faucet. In crazy times, you may have to postpone other people’s urgency… even if they are the boss. Many bosses often have a huge problem with “Nexts” because they aren’t worried about your flood, they have another faucet running in their office. When they come with their “Next” give them a clear choice–”your “Next” which is vitally important or my “Next” which is vitally important.” They’ll be impressed with your thinking and may like your “Next” better.
Give it some thought. You’ll love doing “Next” and even more, you’ll love the result.
So tell me about you. Do you feel like you’re mopping like crazy? What does that look like for you? What do you think about the “Next” concept? I’m still noodling around on it. Tell me what you think. Whew, now I’m moving on to my next “Next”! Hope you can, too.
(photo credit: Noël Zia Lee)