The idea of equality of achievements is a lie pure and simple. When everything seems to be of equal importance, you become busy doing stuff but if you’re not careful, your efforts in one area can inadvertently offset all you achieve in another area.
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”
-Henry David Thoreau
“The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.”
– Bob Hawke
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The truth is activity is often unrelated to productivity. Working through a long and impressive list of To-Do’s is nice, but if that list is filled with trivial and unimportant stuff, you’re not getting anywhere meaningful even while you check the various items off.
Achievers don’t try and do everything and anything they can think of. Instead, they follow a different strategy – they have a clear sense of priority and a clear goal for where they want to head. Instead of putting together a long To-Do list, achievers put together a much shorter list of the items they absolutely must do to succeed. This is a much more productive way to work.
In the 19th century, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto came up with his famous 80/20 principle. His initial conclusion was based on the finding 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. In the late 1930s, Joseph Juran, an executive with General Motors, described this principle as the idea of the “vital few and the trivial many.” Author Richard Koch then labeled it as the “80/20 Principle” and stated the minority of your effort leads to the majority of your results.
“The 80/20 Principle has been one of the most important guiding success rules in my career. It describes the phenomenon which, like Juran, I’ve observed in my own life over and over again – but there’s a catch. Pareto doesn’t go far enough. I want you to go further. What Pareto started, you’ve got to finish. Success requires that you follow the 80/20 Principle, but you don’t have to stop there. Keep going. You can take 20 percent of the 20 percent of the 20 percent and continue until you get to the single most important thing! Start with as large a list as you want, but develop the mindset that you will whittle your way from there to the critical few and not stop until you end with the essential ONE. The imperative ONE. The ONE Thing.”
– Gary Keller
To offset the myth that everything matters, don’t focus on being busy – focus instead on being productive. Keep asking what really matters until there is only One Thing left on your list and then find ways to make that your core activity for the majority of each day. In other words, to achieve more, go small. Figure out what core activity generates the most results for you and then make maximizing the time you do that your top priority – even if you have to say “No” to lots of other nice things. Success comes from doing what matters most.