The Spiritual Power of Next Action Thinking

This is a guest post by my friend Tara Rodden Robinson from the GTD Virtual Study Group and @Context podcast.

Start your walk along the Holy Way and you’ll learn what every pilgrim before you has known. There will be obstacles. Not just random pebbles in the path. Big boulders. Subtle uneven places. And bunny trails–not the sweet nice kind–trails meant to lead you away, confuse your travels, and woo you away from your destination.

Among the subtleties is a very old, and not commonly discussed, temptation to despair of success. The ancients referred to this spirit of desolation as the “noon-day devil” or acedia. Acedia is a form of apathy, a draining away of inspiration, a deadening of the soul.

What the noonday devil does, Margaret Guenther writes, is to woo us away. Woo us away from our callings, our divinely inspired vocations. Here’s what she says, “…the noonday devil …insinuates [itself] into our thoughts, suggesting that God is not very interested in us and that consequently what we do is not important. [It] can persuade us that…we might as well let go of dreams and hopes.” The noonday devil encourages us to envy, to compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking. But most insidiously, the noonday devil invites us to quench our own spark.

As Mephistopheles boasts in Faust, “I am the spirit of eternal negation,” the noonday devil points to your dreams and softly whispers ‘no.’ Or in my case, often whispers ‘Look, over here! Email!” It is so tempting to do the easy (check for mail) that yields a mirage of results (emails received) rather than the seemingly difficult but actually quite easy (sitting down and reviewing what I did last, and relaxing into my work) that yields results.

The mantra of GTD, “what is the next action?” is a powerful weapon against the noonday devil. Taking action, no matter how small, propels you forward, keeps you engaged, and anchors you in the present moment. And moment by moment, step by step, you move out of the shadows where this teensy demon torments into the sunshine where your dreams are waiting.

About the Author

Known as The Productivity Maven, Tara Rodden Robinson is an author, educator, and coach. You can learn more about her by visiting

3 thoughts on “The Spiritual Power of Next Action Thinking

  1. Thank you for inviting Tara to post Ester.

    The draining away of productivity is definitely a temptation into inaction. Thank you for using the words you did. I am inspired to do more instead of worrying, wasting time, and indulging in sloth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s