Finding What Matters – The Easy Way

by Mike Sententia on April 18, 2011

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People tell you to find what’s important and do it.

Problem is, that’s hard. It’s hard to figure out what’s most important. It’s hard to not do other important (but less-important) things. How do you prioritize them?

The human brain hates hard problems. It works hard to avoid them. Instead, it grabs whatever’s the default. Here, the default is your current to-do list, a jumble of important, unimportant-but-urgent, and a few useless tasks.

In short, doing what’s important just doesn’t work in practice.

A Simpler Approach

Stop doing what’s unimportant.

It’s easy to tell something that’s unimportant. Just ask “If I don’t do this, what happens?” If you answer “not much,” it’s unimportant.

So stop doing it.

Fill that time with something else. I’ve been using 2 kinds of tasks here:

  • Some project I know is important, like creating advertising for a business I’m starting.
  • Something I don’t normally do, like a new question I haven’t explored yet.

Choices Snowball

My pool of ideas for what to do today comes from what I did yesterday.

If I did lots of unimportant stuff yesterday, then my head is filled with those busy-work tasks.

But if I did something new yesterday, then my head is filled with possibilities.

Tossing out unimportant tasks snowballs. Unimportant things stop making your list, so you can raise your threshold for “how small of an impact counts as unimportant.” Which lets you cut even more unimportant tasks next week.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

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