In an article over at Pick the Brain, Jonathan Mead writes
One simple fact divides effective and ineffective people: effective
people spend the majority of their time working on important rather
than urgent things.
It’s an age old problem, what should I do now? I’ve spent decades with various planning systems and daily planning tools for business and my personal life. Some rely on ageless technology like paper and pen while others give me an excuse to buy PDAs, laptops, and software. I always love the chance to buy a new toy under the guise of “productivity.”
Alas, none of them have helped me decide what I should hope to accomplish. They merely help me keep track of what I wrote down earlier in the heat of a busy moment or brief daily brainstorm. I find that if I work from, manage, and update my list I am one thing — effective at working my list.
However, Jonathan has touched several items that truly help in choosing “what” to put on my list. It comes in at #3 on his list, but adding value is an absolute requirement in my planning these days. While he leaves it generally open to adding value for “myself or others,” I have to flip that equation and look at the value my work provides others first and to myself second.
Unfortunately, I always find that grande soy latte (or in my case that boring venti decaf no-room) “seems” valuable to me when I’m having it. But in almost every case that I’m adding value for a customer, my family, a co-worker, a manager, a friend, or even a complete stranger I leave that task feeling better about the day and my accomplishments.
It might be a random act of kindness, a quick hello by phone or the completion of a work project. If it touches someone else in a positive way it’s a mark in the daily ‘important’ column.
I still have to do all the other things that keep the bills paid, food in the fridge, and the lights on, but that’s where some of Jonathan’s other points ring true as well.