In an earlier post I wrote about the question “What can be done now?” and suggested that it was the best way to keep up with projects.
However another question “What needs to be done now?” is very useful, especially when faced with an unexpected emergency or a situation for which it would have difficult to plan.
Take for instance the classic work disaster scenario which I am sure all of us have experienced at one time or another. You have a presentation to make in the afternoon and have left enough time in the morning to finalise the arrangements. But early in the morning a major crisis occurs with one of your clients and you suddenly realise that instead of having plenty of time to get ready for the presentation, you now have hardly any.
Repeatedly asking yourself the question “What needs to be done now?” or “What needs to be done next?” can help to defuse the situation. You answers to the question might be something like this:
* * Write a list of essential preparations for the presentation
* * Decide which you could ask other people to do, and which you will need to do yourself.
* * Ask the other people
* * Do the most important thing on the list, and so on.
When you look at a list like this it may all seem totally obvious, but that is the whole point. When we suddenly come under pressure, we have a tendency to panic and start reacting to one thing after another in a mindless sort of way. “Running around like a headless chicken” is the way it is usually described. By asking a question which engages the rational mind we can bring the situation back under control. Remember it is usually not so much the situation but the way we react to the situation which causes the problem.
Another example of a situation when this question is ideal is when you have been asked to help at a function in vague terms which don’t give you much idea of what is involved. Say that you have been asked to come and help at a charity function. You have no idea what that help is going to entail, though you suspect that putting up tents and carrying chairs is going to be a large part of it! Asking the question repeatedly of yourself and others can keep you well on top of the situation.
In fact it is a very good question to ask whenever you don’t have a plan. If you’ve got fed up with your To Do list or Will Do list and want to work for a while in greater freedom, then this is the question to be asking yourself as you go through the day.
Note that the question is couched in impersonal terms. Asking “What needs to be done now?” produces less resistance in your mind than “What do I need to do now?”
So ask yourself: “What needs to be done right now?”