It’s pretty easy to get caught up with having too many things to do. Often times, my Trello board is filled to the brim with a million “important tasks”. The truth is, there are only a few things that truly matter, and it’s up to us to figure out what they are.
The Problem of Doing Too Many Things At Once
There are several roadblocks that come with the need to work on so many things at the same time:
- It can feel overwhelming and drain us
- We lose out on significant progress that could have been made
- Our commitments end up being half-assed or unfulfilled
We can imagine that if we were doing a 100 or a 1000 things at a time, our capacity to manage ourselves and go through the pain of switching between tasks can become insufferable. Picture doing this for 10 days straight, or 10 weeks, or 10 months, or 10 years, or a 100 years. If we took your exact situation to the extreme, will you have made progress in the end? Probably. Would you be satisfied during the entire time? You might not be here if you were satisfied.
Why Does This Matter?
If you want to make progress, then we must learn to do the few that matter most. By focusing on one or two things in the long run, we are able to close the gap between where we are today and our eventual success sooner than later.
I get that there are a lot of things we might want to do. I, for example, want to master Mandarin and Spanish, become a celebrity star on a hit sitcom, and become a world-class poker player. But I’m not about to drop my businesses for them quite yet. I know if I want to succeed to the point where I never have to worry about money again, then I must focus solely on my businesses.
What do you know you shouldn’t be doing, but can’t seem to put in the back-burner? What is the right thing for you to do, but can’t seem to spend majority of your time working on it? What should really matter that you should be focusing on at this stage in your life?
Getting Rid of the Mentality of Doing Everything
It goes without saying that trying to achieve everything won’t cut it. We have a finite amount of time each day, and to go 10% on 10 different things is to get nowhere with anything. We should know that in order to truly succeed in something important, we need a lot of time and energy to invest in that one thing.
The idea of maximizing our time is also a false illusion because we will always be constrained by our attention and energy, unless you are Elon Musk. If you have spare time somewhere, then that time can be better spent on your most important goal.
It’s an attractive idea to be able to do more in less time. Who wouldn’t want to? But for those who recognize that they can’t possibly make true progress, or rather the significant amount of progress they can see themselves making had they focused on one thing at a time, being laser focus is of the essence. If we can point ourselves and chase after one goal, and never stop until we get to it, then we might be able to make life-changing strides in shorter periods of time.
Deciding What’s Most Important
I’ve always believed that for someone to find themselves doing too many things is caused by a few reasons:
- The inability to commit on a single goal
- Lack of relentlessness for chasing a desire
- The fear of missing out on everything
- The fear of failure and success for focusing on one thing
- Belief that everything is equally important
I’m not sure which is the more influential reason. Maybe it’s all the listed reasons and more. Who knows. One thing is certain: we need to be real honest real quick on why we cannot buckle down and do one thing right first.
On Being Selective
Normally, there are a few goals that are the most important and have the most impact to our lives. Things like improving your health to the max, growing a business into a monstrosity, and progressing in your career are the typical few. So how do we decide on what is the most important?
It’s not to say that you should give up your health to become financially successful or to throw work out the window to live in the mountains in peace. Or maybe that’s what you want to do. You know yourself best. I ain’t judgin’. What I am saying is that there are aspects in your life that should receive more attention than other parts. Browsing social media to see what your friends are up to is not as important as reading a book to learn how to close people better so you can win more clients for your business.
Given where you are in life, what should be your top priority? Where do you ultimately want to achieve in 3, 5, or 10 years down the road? How do you envision your dream lifestyle to be? What might be your second priority? What might be your third?
I’m a fan of J.D. Meier’s hot spot mapping to figure out what you should invest your time and energy on. Spend a few minutes checking out his blog post to see what you might find out. His book and methodology Getting Results the Agile Way is an excellent model that is practical for getting things done everyday.
It’s difficult to suddenly uplift our lives, and throw commitments out the window. But if we recognize doing too many things is a problem, then it’s a necessary step to take.
Benjamin Franklin’s axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true here. Learning to say no, and putting your foot down for the betterment of yourself today and future you is a must-have skill. It will prevent you from the headaches and heartaches that is to come, and free up resources you never knew you had (time being one of them).
Learning to figure out what’s most important is also another habit we must engrain in daily routine. This starts with asking the right questions so we can figure out the right answers. What’s most important to you? What can you do today, in the next hour, or in the next 5 minutes (however much you can bear) that will have the greatest change or make the most significant progress toward your goal?
Minor tidbit: Make sure your short-term goals align with your long-term goals. It’s worth starting with the end in mind, and work out the details backwards.
It’s difficult to sustain day-to-day schedule doing many things. After some point, we might feel like we are getting nowhere and our life feels like it is stuck. It might feel like everything has to be done, but the cold hard truth is that there are only a few things that truly matter. Getting rid of the idea that everything is equally important is the first step. Only then, can we start thinking about what is the most important to us and what our priorities should be. Once we have decided what is most important, we can then become selective with our attention and energy, spending our time on tasks that can make the most progress toward our goals. After that, we must learn to practice everyday to engrain the decisiveness we need to get to where we deserve to be sooner than later. This can become uncomfortable, but learning to say no will be the key.