Focus on the Essentials

At any given moment, there is a single essential task that would move the needle significantly. Most of the time, that task is boring and hard. At any given moment, there are also a lot of secondary tasks that provide only marginal value. Those secondary tasks are fun and easy. Focusing on the essential task would create the most results in your life. Working on the secondary tasks without completing the essentials would give you the illusion of hard work, but your results won’t match your efforts.

At the moment of writing this post, I have a few tasks that I can do for my blog. I can write a new post. I can edit my previous drafts. I can participate on social media. I can improve the design of my blog. I can search for images to use in my posts. I can create quote pictures that can be shared on Facebook and Instagram. I can record a podcast. I can shoot a video for YouTube. I can start an account in each of the countless social media platforms. All of that would add some value to my blog. However, all of that would only add marginal value. Sure they would move the needle forward, but none of that would move the needle significantly forward.

At this moment, there is a single action that would create significant value for myself and for the readers of my blog. That action is to make an inventory of all the posts I have written and then organize them in an outline. That way the readers of this blog could see the big picture and avoid getting lost in separate posts. That would also give me an overview of the topics that I have already covered and the topics that I haven’t. I can use that overview as a roadmap to cover a broader range of topics instead of writing posts about the same topics over and over.

The secondary tasks I’ve mentioned above are easy and fun. Coming up with an inventory of my content is hard and boring. The secondary tasks add only marginal value. Coming up with the inventory adds significant value. That’s the problem with the essentials. They are hard and boring. Secondary tasks are easy and fun.

You can fool yourself that you work very hard by spending 18 hours a day on secondary stuff, but your results won’t show the effort you put into your work. Or you can focus on your essentials, get them done in three hours per day and you can spend an extra five hours a day working on secondary tasks. You would get way better results than the first scenario.

It’s crucial to determine which task is the most essential task, to start your working day with that task, and to work on it until it is complete without any distractions. When you are finished with the most essential task, you can continue with the secondary tasks if you want or you can as well take the rest of the day free, because you have already moved the needle as far as you could in a single day.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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