While working on a project like a book chapter, or doing edits to your article keep asking yourself the following questions, “What actions have to happen to make this project done?” Then, “What’s the next right action to bring this project closer to done?”
You know you’ve gotten clear as to what your next right action is when it’s small enough and/or clear enough that you feel inside yourself, “Okay, I can do that.” Not necessarily that you want to do it, or will do it, just that it feels totally doable and your resistance to doing it is low.
Usually the sweet spot comes when the action is pretty small and very clear. Your next right action might be something like “speed draft the last piece of the introduction in 30 minutes or less” or “plug data into a spreadsheet for 1 hour.”

Can you identify your next right action? Congratulations if you can see what comes next. If you can’t, let me know we can hit the backspace until we get to where you are right now. For this discussion, that you do know what your next right action is.

As you know, it’s one thing to know what to do, it’s another to feel like you can stick to that one action until it’s done. So, let me offer you a kind of silly but effective trick to stay on task.
Let’s say that right in the middle of plugging data into a spreadsheet, a great idea for your Steampunk Halloween costume comes to mind. Instead of running for the sewing kit, bicycle chain and sewer grate you log your idea and get back to the data. How to log your idea is where this gets good. And useful. And silly.

Write down your idea or thought on paper only. I like to have a stack of Post-its® and a pen beside me. Imagine when you pick up the pen it’s really, really hot. Like a hot potato. You have got to jot as fast as you can before you can’t stand having the pen in your hand any longer. Jot down your idea, drop the hot pen and get back to your task. If another thought comes into your mind that’s worthy of recalling later, jot it and drop it, one distracting thought or idea per Post-it note.

Once you have finished your action, you can address your notes, or what I would rather you do is to address the notes all at the end of your work day. I’m happy to write to you in more detail about the options you have as to how to quickly process these odds and ends if you would like.

Briefly for today I will say, add anything that’s time sensitive into your calendar, place “someday” ideas into a Bullet Journal, photograph the note and send it to Evernote or transcribe into Trello or Workflowy. You can also simply stick the note right into a tickler file. Put to-do items onto your list for the appropriate day or in some kind of project management tool to pop up when appropriate. If you have no system or nothing that works easily for you let me know, and we can take a closer look at tools which might help you out.

To summarize this letter, Identify your next right action. While taking action don’t let your creative and busy brain work against your best efforts by hijacking your attention. If an idea or distracting thought comes into your head, write it down on paper with a hot-potato pen and get back to work. Jot it. Drop it. Get back to rocking it.