Today’s topic offers a buy-one-get-one concept as it relates to a
technique that can help improve our communications and also our productivity.
When we’re offering words or undertaking actions, it’s really easy
to stretch and do too much and end up overwhelming ourselves or others – or
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that a key component of doing fewer things better is to know what is needed next – immediately next. Is there a deadline, date, or deliverable that you or others can take immediate action on? This key nugget is called the Most Important Next Step, or MINS-as an acronym.
This step is the simplifier in the equation. There may be many steps and support needed but momentum comes from action. When you’re clear on the first next step, you’ve just turned on the switch for momentum.
Seems simple, maybe too simple. Let’s talk about how it works and start with communications.
Whether it’s in writing or verbally, when we offer information to others it’s common to want to tell the whole story – what happened in what order, who was there and so on. We do this in earnestness because we want to be thorough. And we can do this when we want to influence others or have them agree with us. We also do this when we’re excited about a topic. Have you ever been in the middle of sharing something and then interrupt yourself to add in even more details? I do that a lot.
To be a good communicator, we need to shift the lens from us to them. Give the key information and let them ask for more, if they want it. Episode 8 was about the Bottom Line on Top, or the BLOT (I really like those acronyms). That is the practice of leading with the key headline. This is something I do for each episode to give the summary to you, the listener, so you can decide if you want more.
Clarity is kindness for our busy companions. Giving them the headline up front removes the extra work for them of trying to decipher the information as it’s being received. Communication shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt, so tell them what they need to know right away. Don’t make people wait for the big reveal.
Taking that a step further is when you use the MINS. Now that they know the key headline, what do they need to do with it? What is the most important next step – for them, for somebody else, etc. This takes the information they got as the BLOT and gives it a sense of framing.
If information is all that is needed, then the MINS is simply about receiving that knowledge. If there is something that follows, they will now know what to expect and who is doing it by when. If there is action for them to take personally, this sorts the information into action and helps them slot their time accordingly. This helps the information you just gave them be impactful, be remembered, and helps them be intentional with how they put that to use.
In this spirit, let’s look at MINS in terms of habits and personal productivity. Using the practice of identifying the most important next step helps turn a goal into a plan and it moves a need-to-do into a got-it-started.
Episode 33 was about the Ridiculously Small Step concept and that is how micro actions can lead to big results. The smaller the better for this approach. In fact, Ridiculously Small Steps work best when they take a minute or less to complete. An example of this is putting on your workout shoes. Your brain sees that and thinks, hey,
we just changed something. You don’t even have to start the exercise or get to it immediately, but your brain has already registered that first step as having occurred, therefore the momentum engine has turned on.
And psychologically, it’s harder to take off your shoes and admit that you won’t workout than it is to decide not to work out at all before you even put on the shoes. This is the part where the MINS amplify the desired effort. If the small steps turn the engine on, then the most important next step shifts it into gear. You’re not doing the whole driving yet; but the MINS becomes the bridge between the really small step and the following action that does take you further.
Sometimes MINS can come before that small step. If you want to work out in the morning for example, the most important next step could be to put the workout shoes in an unavoidable place. The more visible the better here. Perhaps by the sink where you brush your teeth, by the coffee maker, or put your phone inside the shoes so you have to touch them in order to get your device-much harder to ignore.
These examples are more than a methodology. This is an intentional awareness of the small, but important connections between the actions that shift your brain from a conscious to a subconscious understanding. This is how habits start to form.
When we repeat actions our brain registers that and it forms the structure of either a new habit or something enhanced, that’s where repetition comes into place. And in communications when clear words lead to a better understanding of action, that is a fast pass for the brain.
In both cases, progress is in the practice. Small shifts can lead to tangible outcomes. Important doesn’t have to mean big or challenging when you’re looking at the most important next step. It’s about finding connection points either in a conversation and progress that can happen on your productivity pathway.
When you find yourself pausing in the middle of a task, check to see if there is a most important next step that can help someone better understand what you’re trying to convey or to help you see what is the next visible action to take.
Steps, no matter how small, keep us moving. And some days, it’s the movement that matters not where we finish.
Here’s to a week ahead with better conversation and lots of steps that help us take good care.