The Blog.

Two simple questions

25 Aug 2014 | Mind monkeys, Tips, tools, tricks

I went for a run last week, finally, after a three months of “I really want to get back into it!”

As I was in the shower afterwards, I found a familiar conversation going on in my head.

That was great. I really shouldn’t leave it so long next time. It would be great to make this a regular thing again.

Do you ever find yourself saying that?

Perhaps with healthy habits like exercising, going to the gym or getting an early night.

Or treating yourself to a holiday, a hobby or a get together with friends you don’t see often enough.

Or work habits that you know would make a big difference to your sanity and productivity as long as you keep it up?

Why is it, that there are some things we seem to do once, put down, and struggle to pick up again, even though we want to, when there are other things we never seem to be able to put down at all?

I think it might have something to do with two very simple questions:

“What now?”

Straight after a run, this is the primary question in my head.

What now? Now that’s finished what shall I turn my focus to? What’s for breakfast? What am I going to wear? What have I got on for the rest of the day?

In other words, I’m done with running, and I’m done thinking about running. Until much later when I think “oh yes, whatever happened to that idea?”

What next?”

On the other hand, when it comes to the things I find hard to switch off to – projects I’m working on, problems I’m in the process of solving, plans I’m in the middle of hatching – when I get to the end of one piece of work, my brain is much more likely to say “What next?”

What’s the next step in the project? What’s the next action? What’s next on my hit list? If left unchecked, my brain can quite easily stay at work long after I’ve clocked off, trying to answer this question over and over again.

So what if we switched these two questions around?

UseWhat next?” to keep you going

If I ask myself “what next?” after each run, it gets me thinking about when my next run is going to be, or what distance or time I’ll aim for next, or even which race I might enter myself in for.

It gets me deciding and committing to a next step before I put the matter to rest. It puts my focus on continuation and creates momentum.

Use “What now?” to remind you to stop

Sometimes our minds need actively distracting from work. Asking “what now?” means that yes, there may be more to do later, but right now, I’m done. Right now, it’s time to move on. Right now, it’s time to eat / sleep / play / read a bedtime story / enjoy that barbecue …

It gets you focusing on the present, on what matters right now, rather than worrying about what needs to happen later.

I’m going play around with these questions this week, and I’d love for you to join me.

Where can you ask yourself “what next?” to make sure you keep going? What is it that you would like to make happen on a more regular basis? What habits would you like to reinforce?

And where do you need to stop? What are you in danger of never putting down? Where can you ask yourself “what now?” more often, to remind yourself to be in the now?

Have a play and let me know how you get on!


  1. Paul Harrison

    Simple and helpful, I will try it out this week, thanks Grace



    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks Paul, let me know how you get on!

  2. Peter Anderton

    Really like this – will give it a go this week!

    • Grace Marshall

      Enjoy – and let me know how you get on!

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About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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