I used to thing I had to do it all to be successful, but success came when I focused on what mattered most. If you’re like me, you may feel overwhelmed at times. There always seem to be so much to do and so little time to get it all done.
In order to get more done, I used to buy into the multitasking concept. I figured the more I could do at once, the more I would accomplish. But the opposite actually happened, the more I loaded onto my plate, the less I got done—and the more stressed I became.
We try to do it all, but we end up doing it all poorly and poor execution doesn’t equate to the desired outcome we’re hoping for or the success we are striving for.
When I started focusing on what mattered most I didn’t stop doing important tasks, I just learned how to focus my attention on the things that mattered most and purge the unimportant tasks that were consuming most of my day.
I learned to work smarter rather than longer or harder and I learned to work on a few things—the things that would catapult my success rather than on a laundry list of things that didn’t get me any closer to my goals.
It’s not easy to refocus and shift gears as we’ve all been taught that doing more is good. In fact, you may feel a little anxiety at first as you let go of some of the items on your list. But lets be honest, most of us have items on our to do list that have been collecting virtual dust for weeks, months or even years. Isn’t it time we take those items off our list?
I can tell you from experience, that taking items off our list immediately reduces stress. If you’re like me however, no matter how long something has been on the list, you may feel uneasy about getting rid of it. Here’s a little hack that can help. Simply build another list called: Items I may or may not return to in the future. This way, you won’t lose the task but it also won’t be weighing you down. You can then simply review the list every few months or as needed (or not at all).
We are all extremely busy and unimportant tasks often take over our lives causing us to waste valuable time. We are constantly overwhelmed and our life is overflowing with trivial tasks, unimportant conversations and unproductive activities. So it becomes important for us to look at everything we want to accomplish and decide what matters to us. (cut this?????)
Focusing on what’s important can immensely improve our lives. So how do you determine what matters most? Start by looking at all the things you want to achieve and but together a list, if you don’t already have one.
Then take your list and go through a series of four simple steps to ensure you’re focusing on what matters most:
Prioritization is key to focusing on the things that matter most. Far too many little and insignificant tasks creep into our day causing us to waste minutes if not hours. This wasted time keeps us from achieving the more important tasks that can truly make a positive impact on our lives.
If we can prioritize our tasks, we can free ourselves up for what matters most.
Not only is it important to prioritize everything you have on your to-do list, but it’s important to take items off your list that won’t improve your life or the life of someone around you.
Many of us have items on our to-do list that have been on there for so long that they are collecting virtual dust. These long-standing to-do’s only cause us undo stress. Take a good look at your to-do list and ask yourself these three questions:
- Will this task or project improve my life?
- Will this task or project help me achieve my end goal (one that matters)?
- If I don’t complete this task or project now, will it negatively affect my life?
Go through every one of the items on your to-do list and ask your self these three questions. If you answer yes to any of them, then keep the item on your to-do list but if you answer no to all of them, remove the item from you list. If eliminating items from your list makes you feel anxious then file that to-do item in a separate list as mentioned above.
Once you’ve prioritized your list and eliminated those items that were unimportant and didn’t add any value to your life, review the remaining items on the list and determine if someone other than you can do any of them. That is, see which ones you may be able to delegate to someone else. Can your spouse, sibling, friend or co-worker do it for you? Then start delegating and free up your time for the activities that matter most.
Research shows that people tend to do the simple, unimportant tasks first and save the more time consuming or difficult ones for last. The issue is that there is never enough time to get every thing done so those more important tasks never get accomplished and we spend our days, weeks and years focused on the unimportant items on our list.
If you’ve done a good job prioritizing, eliminating and delegating, you should have very few if any unimportant items left on your list. But even so, tackle the items that matter most first to ensure you get them done. More over, if we do the things that matter most when we are still fresh, i.e. first thing, we will be able to give them the focus and attention they deserve.
Try spending your first hour or two every day working on what matters most—before you check email, social media, texts or return calls. Don’t do anything that might distract you. Instead focus all your attention on accomplishing your goals. You’ll be amazed how one or two hours each day (which you would have spent working anyways) can be the impetus to achieving all your dreams.
Schedule your most important tasks into your calendar just like you would an important meeting. For example every day from 8am to 10am or 9am to 11am set aside for “What Matters Most” and get specific. For me, I spend my first two hours of every day on my writing. I know from experience that if I open my email, I won’t accomplish my most important to-dos so I’ve made it a habit to not open my email or answer my phone until my scheduled writing time is over.
Time is fixed so how do we make time for everything? You don’t! The only way to make the most of the time we have and to focus on what matters most is to prioritize what needs to get done, eliminate those items that don’t, delegate when we can and schedule it in our day.
In his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says, “You become effective by being selective. It is usually meaningless work, not overwork, that wears us down, saps our strength and robs our joy.” He goes on to say, “If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less.”
Are you dabbling? Are you trying to do it all? Become selective and find success and joy by doing what matters most!