The “Next Smallest Action” Formula

Benjamin Haas |

I’ve been introduced (or in some cases reintroduced) to a couple really great people these last few weeks. Someone looking to start his own business while already working full-time, a young man who recently changed careers but also with a new baby, she unexpectedly lost her father and needs to settle the estate, he wants to retire but is going through divorce, they need an estate plan, she’s a super volunteer on top of having a demanding job…  they are all really busy. And it makes getting started on something new, and big, and important, like making a financial plan, really hard.

I’m the same way. I don’t say “no” to a lot of things and before you know it, you feel stretched thin and even the really important things that you KNOW you should be doing get pushed off. It reminds me of a blog I recently read. It’s about a woman who published a cookbook with no background in writing, publishing, cooking, blogging or anything that really relates to her getting a book actually published. What’s amazing to me about this story is how it happened.

When we get busy, we often see everything as hurdles and roadblocks. A lot of people use busyness as a reason to not do things, or to see new and exciting ideas or projects as unrealistic and they give up. But one pattern I’ve noticed in successful people is that once they see the roadblocks in their way, they take a specific kind of action to begin to break the goal down — they take a micro-action. Having figured out the big goal, they focus on the next, smallest action that will get them a bit closer to it.

Take this woman who wanted to publish a cookbook. The most obvious roadblock was her lack of a publisher. To get a publisher, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to send what’s known as a query letter. (See how she moved from big, overwhelming roadblocks to smaller actions?) But first, she had to figure out which agents to approach. So, she went to the bookstore, picked up a cookbook and noticed that the author thanked an agent in the acknowledgments. She had the name of an agent. A simple micro-action, a trip to the bookstore, got her the name of an agent.

Having noted the name of one agent in one cookbook, the next smallest step was to pick up another one. She repeated these steps with every cookbook she could find until she had a list of agents. The next smallest step was to go home and research those agents, one at a time. That allowed her to write each of them very targeted emails. Eventually, she landed an agent, and now there’s a published cookbook with her name on it. Almost sounds easy, right?

Here’s my point: If you’ve identified financial planning as something you need to do, don’t obsess over all the reasons you can’t do it. Don’t let busyness stand in your way. Ask yourself one simple question: What’s the next smallest action you can take? Do that thing. Ask again. Repeat.

Your next smallest action might just be calling us to come chat. We’d welcome the opportunity. We’ll show you how that one micro-action can lead to having a personal road map for your future with us in the driver’s seat.


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