December 13 Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
My aspiration is to write a book next year, and my next 13,455 steps are: write it.
I’ve been writing and noodling about Sabbath for many years, in sermons and articles and on blogs. It’s a practice that’s grounded in specific religious traditions, yet is expansive enough to appeal to lots of people. I think it is one of the keys to a fruitful life. So I put together a proposal many months ago that’s been accepted. You’ve heard of The Year of Living Biblically? This will be The Sabbath Year—12 months of disciplined, intentional Sabbath observance by a two-career, three-kids-with-activities family. The “human guinea pig” conceit will be a structure in which I will also put general ideas, research, and interviews.
So I have a number of next steps set up, some of which are triggered automatically. Every Monday, my to-do list prompts me to take notes about the previous weekend’s Sabbath time—what went well, what was disastrous, snippets of conversations or images I want to remember. I also will schedule a writing/thinking day every so often—several uninterrupted hours to make more headway, push through problems, etc.
As many of you know—because I can’t shut up about it—I am a big Getting Things Done disciple, and David Allen is very big on next actions. You can make forward progress on even the most daunting projects by taking small actions; in fact, the more specific you can be on a to-do list, the better. This is very true in my experience, with one caveat: you can trick yourself into seeming productive by coming up with “next actions” that really don’t move yourself forward, but keep you busy. (You’ve been on e-mail chains with the endless back-and-forth volleys of “I don’t know… when can YOU meet?” Stuff like that.)
That is to say, the weekly note-taking is relatively easy and painless, and necessary right now; but I know the time will come when the work will get more difficult and taxing and will require more than just bite-sized pieces. But for now, I’m enjoying the nibbles.