David Strittmatter

Always determine the next step

You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it – David Allen


  • A lack of accountability for the pursuit of an idea leaves many of them to nowhere
  • Every idea is a project consisting of multiple actions
  • By determining the next action, you prevent ideas from getting lost

Practical advice:

  • Always have in your mind to contemplate possible next actions
  • After determining next actions, it’s crucial to assign a responsible person to them
  • Lastly, you need to follow up by catching up and elaborating the following steps

Dear friend,

When was the last time you had a chat with someone and one of you came up with a great idea? For instance, you told your partner it’d be a great idea to take a trip to New Zealand for whatever good reason. Did you follow-up on this idea?

What I’ve observed in the past years, we tend to have really great ideas but often don’t pursue them further. Not only in our private lives but also in our jobs. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than a meeting with plenty of great ideas without following up on them.

In today’s blog article, I want to explain how determining the next action prevents ideas from getting lost and how you can make sure that a next step is always determined.

Why great ideas get lost

We’ve all sat through meetings where a topic was discussed or chatted with friends about crazy endeavors, but we retroceded without really deciding anything.

The lack of accountability for the pursuit of an idea leaves many of them to nowhere. When nobody feels responsible for planning it out or at least expedite it, the idea is forgotten faster than someone came up with it.

Always determine the next action

An effective remedy to prevent ideas from getting lost is to determine the next action.

What do I mean by that?

I learnt this concept from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, and it works wonders for me. According to David, every endeavor that requires more than one action is a project, such as a trip to New Zealand or the conceptualization of a feedback system.

Consequently, every idea is a project consisting of multiple actions. Following this logic, the implementation of an idea starts with one action, followed by multiple further actions until the idea becomes reality.

Let’s come back to our example: You and your friends agreed that it’d be cool to undertake a trip to New Zealand. The project is the trip. And possible next actions are: “Make a list with 3 great accommodations”, “Search the Internet for the entry requirements for New Zealand”, or “Ask you boss when it’s possible to go on vacation for two weeks”.

By determining one next action and assigning it to someone, you ensure that the idea is followed up. The next time you meet with your friends, you can talk about the current status, and determine the very next action(s) so that your idea is implemented and not forgotten.

How to make sure you always determine a next step

No matter what the project, it starts with a first action. Every implemented idea once began with a first step. Hence, it’s actually quite intuitive to determine a next action, we just often forget to do it.

When I’m in a meeting or chat with a friend, I’ve always in my mind to contemplate possible next actions. It’s become natural to me to do that. Yet, little reminders, such as a sticky note on your not book, help to not forget to determine a next action.

What’s great, though, most often I don’t have to come up with next actions, but the solely asking “guys, what do you think are the next steps” is enough to trigger a great conversation on next actions. Due to the interactive nature of this process, it hardly feels superficial.

After determining next actions, it’s crucial to assign a responsible person to them. If no one proactively takes the lead and assumes responsibility for an action, I simply ask “who wants to do that?”. Usually, there’s then someone volunteering.

Lastly, you need to follow up on the determined next actions by catching up with your friends or colleagues and elaborating the following next steps. Eventually, the once vague ideas become real projects and, in the best case, reality.

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