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Superpowers-II
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Superpowers, Part II

Superpowers II

Those of us who are self-employed, as well as anyone who performs intellectual work of some kind for a living, are continuously faced with a dilemma.

The dilemma can be stated in the form of a two-word question: What’s next?

Many of us encounter this dilemma numerous times a day, whenever we first approach the machines that guide us through our work.

If you’re a student, you have this problem too. You’re supposed to be effectively self-managed, juggling assignments, group work, and numerous other activities. But how do you learn this behavior?

There is little education to guide us in this process of managing workflow.

Long ago I wrote about my ideal superpower. It’s not the ability to fly or the power of invisibility—as awesome as those would be.

My ideal superpower, if I could have anything, would be the ability to always know the right answer to what’s next.

The better you can become at having a good answer for what’s next?, the more effective you will become.

A few tips that have helped me:

Keep nothing in your head. One way or another, you have to write things down. You can use a tool like OmniFocus (my current favorite, which is always with me one way or another) or a paper notebook (something else that is always with me).

Whatever you choose, write things down! Write down ideas. Write down outlines. Whenever you think of any task, no matter how big or small, write it down. Don’t rely on your memory.

Work from a list. Again, how you formulate or refer to the list doesn’t matter—just make a list somehow! I notice a huge difference when I sit down for an hour with a list versus sitting down without one.

Without the list, I spend a lot more time messing around and following up on dumb stuff. With the list, I’m focused on working through it and making progress.

Know your distractions. I don’t think you should always avoid your distractions. Lots of people say you should write with the internet turned off, for example. I don’t do that. I jump between projects throughout the day.

But the point is that I know my distractions. I know that if I’ve already read every main article on the New York Times website, I don’t need to visit the site again until the next day. When I feel like pulling it up again, I’ll look at the list instead. Do you know your distractions?

Pay attention to psychic dissonance. If you’re not feeling excited or motivated about your work, you have to find the source of the problem. When something is wrong, I can usually trace it to something that is unsettled or undone.

At that point it helps to make a choice: move forward on the unsettled work, or officially decide to defer it. But don’t just let it sit there.

***

What’s Next?

For me I’m working on the upcoming Adventure Capital course (it’s been resurrected and all systems are go!), continuing to draft my next book manuscript, and getting ready for the end of the world next weekend in Norway.

So … what’s next for you?

Comments here.

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30 Comments

  • I’ve moved from keeping everything in my head to making use of Evernote. It keeps track of the things I need to remember on a certain day, priority list/to-do, etc. It’s amazing how clear things look when you have it all down somewhere.

    Your last point is interesting. I’ve never thought about the lack of motivation being attributed to something you can seek out to investigate. Most of the time it’s due to something and I rarely take the time to identify the culprit.

  • Joann Loos says:

    I find the Planner pad (www.plannerpad.com) to be the best way of keeping track of my list. It keeps my list in front of me at all times, so I can’t get too distracted.

  • Lia Huber says:

    Funny, my daughter asked me last night, “Mommy, who’s your favorite super bat?”, not quite getting the concept of the term “super-hero”. So super-heroes and super-powers are fresh in my mind.

    My What’s Next is a book I’m working on–Drive, Baby, Drive: Fear, Faith, Freedom and Food on an 8,000 Mile Road Trip Through Latin America. I’m shopping it to agents right now, but also feeling a VERY STRONG PULL to self publish, for many, many, many reasons. I’m also trying to find clarity on What’s Next for Nourish Network … listening a lot to find out what I can do to make people’s everyday mealtimes awesome.

    So bring it on, What’s Next Superpower … Self publish or no? Where to go with Nourish Network?

    Congrats on the end of the world, Chris! WOW (but we always knew you’d get there)!!! Enjoy yourselves in Norway.

  • Excellent post, Chris. Knowing what to do next in every circumstance would be a great superpower. In my own primary online business, I’m always asking “what next?” because I always feel like I’ve done everything that I can to help my customers. It’s often a stretch to find new things to offer them. But making that stretch is always worthwhile.

  • Hey Chris! Try Catch for iPhone and iPad! It’s a lifesaver.

  • Cat says:

    Hi Chris – what next for me, removing a day of paid work to focus on my writing and coaching. For my distractions i find music helps, if I have it playing in the background I am more focussed and get more stuff done.

  • Thank You Chris – “What is next?” is truly a powerful question.

    If I am quiet and listen inward, I always know what is next or have inspiration that sends me in the right direction. I call this inner knowing the voice of my soul or my intuition. I think of this voice as the part of me that is infinite and eternal and linked to the source of all creation.

    How I access it is to find a quiet place, often with a notebook/journal in hand and take a few minutes to quiet my mind. In this stillness is the great wisdom always waiting to guide you and I. This is a knowing we all have.

    Presently I am working on a book called Finding the Soul’s Voice but don’t wait – become friend with your soul, your intuition right now.

  • Elisa Hopewell says:

    Just got a call back from a historic downtown venue to have my cooking class there! Now what? Should I make a brochure, website or just show up with all the supplies and see how it works? If the venue doesn’t work out, where else can I do my cooking class? All on my mind and I really want to have a clear plan to make it happen. Not to mention pricing for the class….

  • Nicky Hajal says:

    Chris –

    Do you have a habit of reviewing all the notes you take in your notepad or do you just consider them to be for working through ideas in the moment?

    A few years ago I always had a notepad on me but then I was just overflowing with notes that I wasn’t sure what to do with.

  • Catherine says:

    I am about to start my assignment, so I can finally get on and enjoy my long weekend!! I’ve been putting it off for too long!

    And then I will be yoga-ing, relaxing, and allowing my body and mind to have a break given how hard I’ve pushed it through the past two weeks.

  • Pat Larsen says:

    That’s for the post Chris.
    I agree that it is damn hard to know what to do next. To chose a path, stick to it or get off it if you chose the wrong path.
    Steve Jobs said the hard part was having the discipline to say, “No” to all the other attractive projects and focus on only the best projects.
    I’m struggling right now with pushing forward only the most important projects and letting the rest just slide away for a while or forever.
    Shiny objects and a homunculus in my brain- these cause all sorts of havoc
    A friend of mine joked that we needed an Ideas Anonymous club where we stand up, admit we have a problem with too many ideas and too much focus.
    One solution is Jason Altucher’s practice of mapping out a new project with always asking, “What would the next step be?” and taking that idea to it’s conclusion. Usually that exercise is enough to get it out of your system and get back to the most important things.

  • Great list to help answer the constant question of what’s next. I could have used it earlier today; my focus today was crap!

    What’s next for me is continuing with my next book, a fun illustrated book. I’m gathering the illustrations and next month will put together and send a book proposal out.

    Also gearing up for something super super super fun I am launching this summer. It is all coming together in really exciting ways and I can’t wait to pull it all together and share it.

    And, getting ready for WDS, of course!

    Have fun in Norway! What a bittersweet moment for you. Wow is all I can say.

  • Coco says:

    Distractions and psychic dissonance.

    It finally dawned on me what their purpose is. They’re the gut feelings that get accused of being wastes of time (not there’s no such thing as a waste of time). When I realized that dragging my feet on something was not always just laziness and procrastination, but instead might be a message to go toward what makes my mind zoom, it was such a tremendous burden lifted from me. The obligations that we set ourselves up for can be so damaging to our souls if they are nothing more than what that elusive “someone” said we should do.

    We’re much better contributions to society when we live our lives with honesty about who we are and what we can do.

    This is a saying that, though trite, really works for me: Think with your head, feel with your heart, go with your gut.

  • filio says:

    Distractions are… well, very distracting and I fight them everyday. Nothing feels better than a day when I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.

  • Jehangir says:

    I know what my next steps are, because I write them down the night before on a piece of paper, which is left on my desk, ready to catch my eye the next morning. For me, I can end my day knowing (sometimes delusively) that I’m still in control, while I start the next day knowing what direction I need to head in.

    Of course, all of these pieces of paper are informed by an electronic (OneNote) master list and a mind mapped vision, because (thank you Mr Covey) you have to start with the end in mind.

  • Say Keng LEE says:

    Hi, Chris:
    I like your idea of paying attention to psychic dissonance and its immediate resolution, notwithstanding the fact that I also find your apt answer to the question, what superpower would you like to be granted to be very relevant, especially in terms of sustaining one’s forward movement to personal prosperity.
    Thanks for writing great stuff.
    Best regards, Say Keng

  • Mike Kawula says:

    Definitely Agree & the art of managing our time should be taught early.

    I’m actually still a pad & pen type guy as I enjoy checking off when done. The trick for me is keeping that list full to avoid those wasted minutes/hours that can disappear instantly.

    Safe travels!

  • Nazrin says:

    This moment in my life is the clearest I have ever been on answering this question.

    I hope that clarity stays around for quiet some time. For now, it is exciting to see all the little steps coming together for the Official Launch of our website followed very closely behind by an in person meet up in your real life Narnia, Sydney.

    I am looking forward to raising a glass (or two) to your ‘end of the world’.

  • Andreas says:

    See you in Norway!

  • What’s next for me is finishing an ebook that I’m going to give away in exchange for email subscriptions to my blog. Excited!

  • Great insight on productivity. Thanks for the app recommendation, as well.

  • Anne says:

    I’m a fan of keeping all of my distractions in the notes app on my phone. When I’m working on a project, I have a list of distractions and ideas that come up while I’m working so that rather than following them, I just write them down and determine which ones are worth following up with after I’m done. It’s refreshing to see you mention psychic dissonance – so many people ignore it and think they need to keep pushing through, when really, they should stop and figure it out. Great post, Chris.

  • Curtis says:

    Great article Chris. Is there a free version of Omni?

  • Brandy says:

    I love this. And I love that that would be your super power, Chris! I think mine would be teleportation. But I suppose you’ve already mastered that. 😉

    What’s next for me? To write the damn book (next month for Camp NaNoWriMo). And commit to the details of growing my tribe. Doing a few small things every day. Creating a plan that is action-oriented (so, instead of my default “have X number of subscribers by X month,” I’ll focus on the actual steps I can take from the research I’ve done).

    But *rightinthismomentnext* I’ve got to finish washing the dishes because my parents are coming for Easter weekend!

  • Enrique Arturo Garcia says:

    What’s next? Ideally, I check my personal vision and mission to guide me what I should do next. I think this step is recommended.

  • Jolie Adam says:

    What’s next for me?

    Celebrate my birthday in style
    Move out to Los Angeles
    Complete my book proposal and wait for the offers to come in
    Start my retail/wholesale business
    Book my summer vacation in Europe
    Complete a screenplay
    Assemble all poems/unfinished stories into anthology/short stories’ novel
    Start enjoying life to the fullest
    Get paid for doing the things I love

  • Um, I guess I should write it down, because I have no idea…

  • Great insight! “What’s next” is such a powerful question. What’s next for me is the release of my new business book this year!

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