A Simple Rule for Taking a Step Back

April 3, 2022

A new quarter has started, so it’s time to update my list of goals, identify action steps, and schedule those action steps (the way I teach it in Big-Picture Productivity).

You might have a similar periodic planning ritual. But how can you get around to it in the midst of your ongoing responsibilities? Chances are, you have plenty of work that feels more urgent than taking a step back to review the big picture.

To make sure I do my quarterly planning, I use the following rule:

Once the new quarter has started, I can finish projects, but not start new ones.

So, for example, if I’m producing a video for YouTube, creating a new course, or drafting a speech, I can finish that project before starting my quarterly planning. But I cannot start work on a new video, course, speech, home improvement project, or what have you.

Taking a step back requires my full attention anyway and closing those open loops helps me focus on the planning.

If you’ve been wanting to do some high-level reflection, but you’ve been putting it off, give my rule a go:

  1. List the projects you’re actively working on. (There should be just a couple; otherwise they’re not active. Don’t kid yourself.)
  2. Commit to finishing them.
  3. Say “not now” to any additional projects.
  4. Make your plan.

Then decide, in your planning process, what to focus on in the next three months.

Good luck!

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