I’m at that point again. Well, I get to that point often, I hate to admit. The point I’m talking about is when the details of what I need to do swirl around me like a meteor shower, with its corresponding lack of visibility. Not that I’ve been in one. But it seems like one.

So before my blood pressure and anxiety begin to rise, I frantically reach for the steno pad I always have on my desk. I think, I have to make a list. What’s my priority?

When I want to improve in fiction and I know there are a dozen tasks I could do toward this goal— read a book on craft, get a novel from the library and study it, work on my own writing, study editing, work on description, etc. I could benefit from all of these, but what to do first?

Maybe there’s no priority order for that particular list, unless there’s a deadline (self-imposed or otherwise) so I’ll just do the next thing. If I pick pretty much anything from the list, set a timer, and work on it for, say, forty-five minutes or so, I’ve gone that much further.

This can be especially beneficial in social media (which makes me want to scream.) Not that I mind writing blog posts, but figuring out how to link things together, optimize for search engines, pin photos someone out there might like…is a bit like cobbling together a do-it-yourself rocket kit. And the preferred priority order is the world’s best-kept secret.  But maybe there’s no priority order there either. I just need to find one or two things I actually understand and do them. Then find the next thing. One at a time, keeping my eyes on the goal.

This can also apply to cleaning closets, packing up to move, renovating a room or the yard. Any huge, daunting task with hundreds of moving parts can appear like the mountain we know we’ll die trying to climb.

So suppose I make it a habit to do the next thing. I won’t think about it too hard. Then the next. And before you know it, the closet is cleaned. The boxes are packed. I’ve written a chapter of a new book. Or a blog post.

I’ve made progress. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. Just by doing the next thing.