The difference is a mile wide when I focus on a project that truly matters compared to one that’s ehh.
My tank is always full of inspiration and a healthy urgency when working on a mission critical to me.
For example, I’m motivated to wake up early and work harder during book writing season. The prospect of writing a book that drives value to other people and myself energizes me each and every day. My books propel individuals and my career forward, defining success.
It’s also easy to be positive during this time. So making progress on my manuscript is my drug, in a way.
When I worked my outside sales job, I often found myself frustrated because the activities ultimately didn’t help my entrepreneur career—what mattered most to me. I’d find myself taking longer lunches, putting less into the job than I could, and being drained on my way home from work. The sales job didn’t fulfill me.
I know the same is true in your life. You know the difference when you’re working on something that truly reflects where you want to go in life, and work that you could care less about.
But too often you’ll find yourself making a little progress on a bunch of unimportant activities and making no progress on something you really wanted to accomplish.
What’s the purpose of that?
The Only Way To Succeed
You only have 24 hours in a day. Meaning you don’t have time to fit in all the activities that matter and don’t matter.
If you spend too much time on unimportant activities, you’ll regret it for two reasons.
First, you won’t get the opportunity to make strides in what inspires you. You’ll know what you want to do, where you want to go, but you’ll show no signs of ever getting there. How frustrating?
You’ll get upset. Maybe you’ll start making excuses. Maybe you look for shortcuts and stop developing the fundamentals. Maybe you do the worst thing possible and give up on your goal because you’re not seeing any progress.
It’s a nightmare when you know what you want to do, but don’t spend the time doing it. That’s a recipe for depression.
On the other front, achieving progress in areas that don’t mean much to you will never give you real happiness.
Being promoted from retail assistant manager to manager is success on its own, but if you want nothing to do with retail then this won’t feel like success. It’ll feel like a pat on the back instead of a glorious victory.
If your parents hand over the family business to you and make you CEO, other people may see you as successful. But if your heart knows you always wanted to be a sports agent, then the family business won’t be fulfilling.
Always regretting that you didn’t chase that sports agent dream, for example, is not the way to live. You’ll imagine how your life would be if you took that road and you’ll kick yourself for not following it.
Since you only have one life, please promise yourself you’re going to give your time and energy to what truly gives you satisfaction.
A key to personal happiness and success is to spend as much time focusing on what matters to you and spend as little time, or stop completely, on the less important activities.
Do this and for the first time in your life you’ll make substantial results in something you’re truly interested in. And you’ll be ecstatic because of it.
You’ll become alive like you never imagined. You’ll feel like a completely different person.
I’d know, because this has been true for me ever since I quit my sales job and became an entrepreneur.
How To Focus On What Matters Most
There’s a difference between knowing you need to focus on what matters and executing. The following tips show you how to take action to implement this in your life.
1. Set a long-term goal.
Think about it, how can you focus on what matters most when you don’t know what that is? That’s why the obvious first step is to set a long-term goal, or multiple goals that align. (Just don’t get carried away and come up with four goals that all pull you in different directions.)
Write down a specific, measurable goal and a date you need to reach it by to make your mission more tangible.
For example, a bad goal is “to become rich.” That’s vague and gives you too much leeway to miss it. A much-improved goal is “to have a $1,000,000 net worth at 30.” Or “to be a millionaire 10 years from now, on 07/18/16.”
At the minimum, set a goal six months from now and at the most 10 years from now. Although playing for the long game requires patience, the world and you will change too much to set a goal any farther out.
But this long-term vision will also help you ignore the little curveballs from life. If you don’t get as much work done as you wanted because your computer breaks or you’re sick for a week, it’s ok. You’re in it for the long haul and you will make that up over time.
2. Create weekly goals.
With the big target in mind, consider what you need to accomplish this week to make progress.
For me, that looks like seven to ten weekly goals: three to four upcoming book tasks, four blog posts, and a few random tasks each week. I review the past week’s goals and set new goals for the week each Sunday.
Over time, you’ll get better at recognizing what weekly goals are too easy, what ones will push you, and what ones are unreasonable to accomplish. Stick with the goals that will push you to maximum effort.
Don’t get confused. A long-term goal (tip #1) doesn’t give you permission to be lazy, otherwise you’ll never reach it. It gives you a focus to put your weekly energy towards achieving. Without any hard work, you’ll never make significant progress.
3. Start the day with your most important activity.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m big on starting the day with the most important activity. If this concept is new to you, you’ll ask what’s the most important activity?
It’s the task that will help you get closer to your long-term goal more than anything else. If you want to be a screenwriter, it’s spending that first hour developing the opening scene. And setting aside little chores like email and laundry.
Ironically, it’s the thing you know you need to do the most so you want to put it off for later. The key is to overcome the greatest task right when you wake up. If you can do that each day, you’re golden.
Because the positive momentum created by completing this task is unbelievable. It sets the tone for the entire day, making each following task easier. I’m confused why everyone doesn’t do this.
The successful people you look up to followed this same formula of completing their most important activity each day. They’ve just done it more consistently and for longer than you. That’s why they’re elite at what they do, rich, and famous.
4. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
Following this path means you’re going to have to ignore some parts of your life that you used to spend time on. But this is ok, because the consequences of ignoring those activities aren’t a priority to you.
So ask yourself what do you do that you can afford to neglect? Maybe you used to have a hobby that at one time had importance, now you’ve changed and it doesn’t. Drop it completely.
And often times, we do things not because we care, but because other people care. Stop that! Those are the first things for you to let go. Being selfish in this case is a good thing.
Also, this mindset means sometimes you should pay for someone else to do a task so you can unlock more time for yourself. I’m all for saving money, but not trading time for money.
5. Reflect on your progress.
If you follow this advice above, then you can easily reflect on your daily and weekly goals. Did you complete your most important activity today? Did you meet your weekly goals?
If you’re honest, you’ll know right away,
Then, make it a point to reflect on your overall progress each month. Reviewing your overall progress gives you a pass or fail grade that’s motivating.
If you’re closing in your long-term goal, then keep up the hard work. You have a good routine going.
On the other hand, if you’re far behind where you wanted to be, you need to change where you direct your time. Refocusing on what matters will be the spark to get you back on track.
That might mean you need to stop playing Pokemon Go to get more done each week. But sacrificing a game to make progress on your goals is always worth it.
For your happiness, please find what excites you and take massive action to pursue it. It’ll be the thrill that never goes away.
What’s the one thing you’re going to focus on? And when’s your deadline to accomplish it? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments section below.