Do you spend too much time juggling projects and tasks you’re unlikely to ever tackle? Maybe it’s because there’s stuff in there not worth doing? S ome people call it re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I say, throw ‘em overboard!
In What is the cornerstone of your strategy?, I discussed how important it is to nail down the key elements of your strategy.
When Paul McCartney was feted at the Kennedy Center honors, I shared with you my thoughts on how we become remarkable.
In both cases, I referred to Steve Jobs’ well-known phrase about how Apple is so intensely focused on its products … and how proud he is that the entire product line fits on a single table.
A Single Table?
Everyone always asked Steve Jobs with wonderment,
“How do you do it?”
(Stay tuned, too, for the homegrown bonus tip I’ve got for you.)
“Get rid of all the crappy stuff.”
That’s what he says.
*“Get rid of all the crappy stuff.*”
I’m pretty sure that David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame, would agree with me that it is far more efficient and effective to be clear about what you’re NOT going to do than to have a cluttered mind trying to juggle of bunch of activity that’s going nowhere.
Of course, you first have to devote some quality time to collecting and organizing all the things that have your attention so you can achieve a leakproof system. Once you’ve got control over everything you care about … and have gained the perspective to differentiate between mundane tasks and lifetime goals … you’re on your way.
What’s getting in our way?
It’s been proven time and again that we gravitate toward the things we’re good at and the things we enjoy.
If we’re a spreadsheet jockey, we’ll stick with an Excel project that we like … but fail to get after a few other things that are really a higher priority.
Likewise, when our energy level starts to ebb, we’re inclined to …
- look at an interesting webinar coming up, or
- drift off to a favorite web site, or
- start filing some papers we’re tired of looking at.
Those things probably have to get done at some point … but if we like doing them, they’ll worm their way into our day and cut off the circulation to what we really should be doing.
Why isn’t it easier just to get rid of the crappy stuff?
Part of it is our affection for what we enjoy and are good at.
Part of it is the endless burst of distractions that comes at us from 360 degrees.
Part of it is also that we like to please others, so we take on more than we can reasonably do so we’re behind from the get-go.
It’s also because we aren’t sufficiently rigorous about what’s important. If we’re not eternally vigilant, a lot of crappy stuff seeps into our agenda, cool things, fun things … but distractions nonetheless.
What can you scratch off your list – TODAY?
Take a moment right now and look at what’s on your list for today.
Is any of it “crappy stuff”?
Is there an item or two that represents something that is “nice to do” but not “need to do”?
Maybe the method used by Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, will give you a few ideas?
Take an unforgiving look at your list
If you’re committed to getting done the important things that make your life fulfilling, you need to take an unforgiving look at that list and drop-kick the things that really are NOT going to get you there.
Be decisive and get them off the list if they’re not advancing your agenda.
Put them on a “maybe/someday” list, maybe on a tickler list for when you have some spare time, but get them off your primary list so you can focus on what’s really important.
You’ll know it when you see it
Don’t worry, it will be easy to tell.
Like many things, “you’ll know it when you see it”. The crappy stuff is usually pretty obvious once we look at it through a more demanding lens.
Remember … it doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy doing some of it or would really like to.
Just move it into a place you can reserve for such things, and get it off the table. Use that time to focus on the handful of things that will really make a difference.
Oh, and don’t forget this bonus tip. Yes, whoever does the laundry in your house, they will thank me. Expensive gifts preferred!