Busy may be a badge of honor for some, but wisdom sharpens the axe. Sometimes less really is more, and especially so when we value our time and our talent enough to care and make the changes necessary to create!
Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
Solomon said a similar thing in Ecclesiastes 10:10:
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.”
Our efforts are often so dissipated across numerous and often inconsequential activities that we have no steam left in the engine to apply force and fervor to the things that matter most to us.
When it comes to productivity and satisfaction in life, way too many people are focused on cramming more activities into already overburdened days. Too many eggs in the basket scrambling for attention!
But there is a big difference between mere efficiency, and being effective. We want to be effective in what we do, not just efficient.
Effectiveness comes not from doing lots of things right; it comes from doing the right things.
I could be a highly efficient Wall Street manager, or internet marketer, a famous writer or singer (or whatever – you fill in the blank) making bag-loads of cash, but an absolutely ineffective husband, dad, and writer.
I can boil this down even further for you. It comes down to doing not just the right things, but doing the right THING. One thing.
This is not to say that there won’t be many other activities that place demands on us, nor that we have the luxury of dumping all of the necessary tasks that demand our day’s resources.
The change of mindset that brings freedom is very simple, though.
I honestly evaluated what my One Thing is.
For me it is to write.
I arrived at this revelation by not over-complicating the process of deduction.
In your heart, you know.
In your heart, ask yourself the question, “If I could do anything at all, and money were not an issue and success were guaranteed, what would I do?”
It will be something that sits within the overlap of your monetizable skills and your values.
It will be something that answers not only the question, “What do I do?” but also, “Who am I?”
I am a writer.
I am not a perfect, great or accomplished writer.
Maybe, in the interest of full disclosure, I should precede the statement with “I am an imperfect…”
Nevertheless, I am.
And getting better every day.
From that point of certainty, I can properly evaluate all other thoughts and activities. Do they facilitate and feed into my One Thing, or detract from it?
Gradually, I can then begin to reshape my schedule and activities based on my priority and my values. If something does not align with them, it faces one of three fates – elimination, automation, or delegation.
That, in fact, is where many of my own learnings found their genesis. I was looking for ways in which I could eliminate, automate, or delegate the processes necessary to maintain (and grow) a six-figure fiction-publishing and internet-marketing business and free my time to pursue my own writing, without pressure or distraction.
Whereas at one time these various activities, all good and productive in themselves, took most of my time and attention to keep them rolling, they are now very much on their way to being sufficiently mechanized to produce and feed my One Thing.
Everything serves that one end, and I look for creative ways to make it happen.
My effectiveness is not so much measured by how much I can do, but how little.
How can I, through a process of strategic elimination, automation, or delegation of the MANY THINGS, do less and leave more time and headspace, effectively giving me the inner and outer resources to fulfill my ONE THING?
Today would be an example. Monday is a day that I prep and publish the week’s new releases. It is a busy day for me by comparison to others. It would have been all too easy to pass on putting out a post on the blog today, but a habit is not built by passing, even when it’s legitimate to do so.
What’s your own thing? Are you serving yourself and other by prioritizing it?
Most often it will not be the most urgent thing. It won’t be the most pressing. The likelihood is that it will not be ‘necessary’ in the same way that changing then tires on your car or paying your bills may appear to be.
But it is the most IMPORTANT thing!
If you dream in a particular direction, you have to put your skin in the game and prioritize your creativity.
That’s pretty much all I need to say. Now then, I gotta go and publish some books!