Pick Up Five Things!

“You can accomplish anything if…”  How would you complete that sentence?

A business friend I always admired used to say it this way: “You can accomplish anything if you just know the next step.”

I like that idea. Sometimes the sheer size of a project can seem overwhelming. Daunting. Paralyzing. If I look at the whole enchilada it can stop me in my tracks. At times like that I’ve found that that the best question to ask myself is, “What should I do next?” I even find that notion helpful when I have a day or a week on my calendar without enough planned activity: instead of getting frustrated trying to figure out how to fill up the whole day or the entire week, I can often gain traction simply by focusing on the next 30 minutes!

When I was a kid and my room was messy, the sheer size of the mess was enough to paralyze my little brain. “Mom, I can’t do it, it’s too hard!” I would wail. Her calm reply was always the same: “Pick up five things.” She knew that if I reduced the task to a bite-sized Next Step, it would break the logjam and establish some momentum. Now when I get overwhelmed I often remind myself, “Just pick up five things.” And it doesn’t even matter which five things! The important thing is to begin. Take the next step.

Stephen Covey told us in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to “Begin with the end in mind.” I agree. But at those times when the end seems too far away and hard to reach, I may need to content myself with a baby step in the right direction. A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step — but it’s the next step after that, and the one after that, and the one after that — and so on and on — that will get you there.

Overwhelmed? You can accomplish anything if you just know the next step. So go pick up five things.

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