“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” John C Maxwell
Every business leader continuously fights against an onslaught of the unimportant so that they can focus on what is truly important and what will make the biggest impact for their business. If they let their guard down, they run the risk of being completely overwhelmed by the unimportant.
Quite a few years ago when I was managing a fairly large engineering project, I was introduced to the concept of classifying activities into the quadrants of low importance, high importance, low urgency and high urgency. This was a lifesaver for me as the project scope grew and my workload increased.
However, it did mean that I could not keep everyone happy. There were times when I was confronted by people who felt I was making trade-offs or compromising on some issues. My answer? “You are correct, I am!” I was choosing what was the most important and most urgent while deferring, delegating or ignoring the rest of “the noise.”
Besides using techniques like the “urgency/importance” matrix, what can a leader do to ensure that they are addressing the most important activities and deferring the unimportant?
- Embrace trade-offs. You must be willing to stand firm against the unimportant so that you can make a huge impact by focusing on the important. This is not an easy path to take but it is critical for success.
- Realize that when you are saying “yes” to something you are saying “no” to something else. For example: If you say “yes” to an unimportant evening meeting, you are saying “no” to potential family time in the evening.
- Pick your most important, biggest impact areas and focus there. Say no to everything else.
- Concentrating on the most important activities takes some thinking and planning. We are all so busy we want to just DO instead of planning what we should be doing. Block time in your calendar each week to use for planning your activities.
- You must realize that your first and most important priority is to prioritize your activities. As Greg Mckeown said, “Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize.” Don’t ignore your highest priority!
- Admit your mistakes and “un-commit” from a commitment if it isn’t your most important, biggest impact area
- Deliberately subtract things from your life (clutter, noise, interference, unproductive tasks) to focus on your biggest impact areas that add value
- Eliminate meaningless activities and add meaningful activities. “An essentialist produces more – brings forth more – by removing more instead of doing more.” Greg Mckeown
Don’t ignore the unimportance of practically everything. Spend some time building boundaries and processes in your life to protect yourself from the onslaught of the unimportant. A balanced life and your business success depend on it!
“To follow, without halt, one aim: There is the secret to success.” Anna Pavlova
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