How many times have you stared at your computer, wondering what should be your next step? In this article, I’m going to help you come up with some ways to decide your next best step for your business.
Feeling stuck and hesitant to commit to a next step sometimes feels like you have too many ideas swirling around at once. And other times it feels like your mind is empty and you have no idea what you should be doing.
Both are really forms of procrastination and indecision. It feels heavy, bogged down, and impossible to get out of. Like many people I struggle with this sometimes and I want to share what pulls me out of the indecision.
How we get stuck
I think the phrase, “stuck in the weeds” is a pretty good description of how it feels when you’re trying to figure out your next steps. I imagine being surrounded by thousands of useless (or at least useless-to-me) plants that block my view of the landscape and my way of clarity and escape.
Ironically, we can end up “in the weeds” when we are successful in the key skill of focusing on a problem or task. We get so focused and stay there, and likely knock out some great work. But we stay too long without looking around. We’re like the little beagles who follow their nose for blocks, then look up and don’t know where they are.
And this is just one of the major challenges if you’re in business by yourself. Sometimes you have to focus on the next step, sometimes you have to think about the whole staircase of steps. And you can’t lose sight of either of them.
What you need is some sort of map.
Do you cringe when you’re asked about your business plan?
Conventional wisdom will tell you to look back at your business plan to decide on your next steps. If you have a business plan, you most likely created it at the very beginning of your business, before you knew how things would really go.
Now, I have a business degree, and I love putting together business plans. But I cringe at the idea of my own business plan because I know I haven’t had time to keep it updated. People rarely do. Plus, the purpose of most business plans is really to obtain funding, and so the information might be helpful financially, but not help you know what next move is right for you.
Consult a map to figure out your next steps
When you don’t know what the next step should be, it’s time to consult a map! The map, along with a compass and some guides will keep you on the path you chart. The good news is that you can create your map yourself.
Looking at the map is like focusing on the staircase of steps. When you’re in a moment of indecision, you can ask yourself a couple of key questions.
If you have too many ideas swirling in your head:
- Do a quick brain dump. Write them all down in a list.
- Do a check – if any of the ideas are way off the path, cross them out or put them in a list for later consideration.
- For each one left, ask yourself, “Will pursuing this idea get me closer to my destination? How close?”
- Pick one step that moves you close to your destination.
If your mind is blank:
- Review your map. Find your current location and your destination.
- Spend a few minutes coming up with crazy ideas on how to travel that distance. No editing or judging! This helps you get in a creative mode, and lets you access thoughts you might not be aware of!
- Spend a few more (after the crazy ideas!) thinking about realistic ideas on how to get there, even if you’re not considering them for yourself or your business.
- Now, take all those ideas and run them through the “too many ideas” process above.
I love doing this, and it sounds more complicated than it really is when I write out the steps like that. Really, you can do this in just a few minutes if you have your map and keep it up to date.
Building your map
Time management, goals and task planning, are crucial for business-owning moms because we really need to make the most of the time we do have. The way to start this process is to build your map of what you want to accomplish in your business.
Here’s how to set up your map and your tools. In addition to your map, you’ll need a compass to help you find direction, guides or guardrails to keep you on your path, waypoints to mark that you’re taking the right next steps, and the steps themselves.
Your navigation tools
First, get very clear on where you want to go. This is the toughest step of all, and it’s the one people skip! It’s very hard to know where you want to go, and you might have to do some research, or try out various things before you really know where you want to go.
If you don’t get clear though, you’ll waste a lot of time. You might get to a destination quickly, but it won’t be a destination that satisfies you. It will be someone else’s destination.
Only you can come up with a destination that will mean anything to you. Do some dreaming. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to help you decide:
- What problem do you want to solve?
- What do you like to do?
- What are you skilled at?
- How do you like to work?
If you would like some help getting clear, click here for a free mini-course that can help you do that.
Your compass will be the combo of your word of the year plus your business values.
Based on your clear destination, try to distill your answers from above into an inspiring word of the year (or word of the journey, word of the planning cycle).
Then, work on a list of values that your business holds or stands for. Here’s an article about values if you’d like a little more info.
Combined, your values and your word of the year will help you stay pointed in the right direction. If you ever get off course, review these to help you get oriented again!
The map itself
The long-term vision you have for your business is your map.
A vision statement is future-focused and talks to what you or your company want to see in the world. It’s built from your business values and describes what life/the world would be like if your business was ultimately successful.
A good vision statement speaks to your beliefs and inspires you to keep doing the hard work of showing up, even when success is years away. It’s primarily for you and your company.
Want more about vision? Read about why business-owning moms need a vision statement.
Your guide or guard rails
The next important tool you need to help you know your best next step is a guide or guard rail to keep you on your path.
In business, your mission statement helps keep you focused on the path to your destination.
A business mission statement is present-focused. It describes your business’s current high-level goal or plan to express its vision statement. The mission statement is generally more concrete than your vision and drives the strategy of your business. It can answer the questions of what?, for whom?, why?, and how?, among others.
The mission is a very big-picture goal of the business, and is for you and your company, but also used to communicate with the public about who you are.
I have some help building a mission statement here if you need it.
Along your path, you’ll have waypoints to reach. These are your goals.
Set milestone goals that will help you achieve your mission. Each time you reach one of these goals, or waypoints, stop a moment and acknowledge your achievement. If you don’t, your goals won’t feel important to you, and it will become easier to slip off the path. If you celebrate though, reaching that next goal will rise in importance.
The steps on your map are your individual tasks needed to fulfill your next goal.
Broken down this way, it’s hard to lose sight of what your next best step will be. This process saves time because you only have to think through your steps once, not each time you need to take one.
Keeping your map current
Make a recurring appointment to review your map. You do want to review the decisions you made when you built the map, but you don’t want to do it at each step you take. Do a deliberate review periodically.
- Do you still want to get to the destination on that map?
- Are you still on the best path to that destination? Things change in the environment that may require you to forge a different path.
- Do you have any new knowledge that might lead to a new path?
Frequent dreaming and questioning is important, just not while you’re “in the weeds!”
If you’re serious about starting to build your map, register for the Get Clear Mini-Course to do some thinking about what it is that you really want.