We’ve all met a person with too many projects, and we get to watch absolutely none of them done. They bounce from one thing to the next like they’re juggling chainsaws and they can’t let one drop.
That’s exactly what happens, they get stuck working on too many things at the same time. Stuck with too many projects in the air and unable to determine which one to tackle.
Or maybe you think that multitasking is a great skill to have. Many companies still list “multi-tasking” as a soft-skill that potential leadership candidates should have. But multi-tasking doesn’t actually work. You’re just switching between tasks rapidly and losing precious bits of focus in-between.
Each time we move from listening to music to texting or talking on the phone, there’s a stop/start process that interrupts what you’re doing so you can move to the next task. Multitasking is a myth.
The problem with both of these situations is that you can’t focus on one thing. And if you can’t focus, then there’s no point in managing your time. All of the time management voodoo in the world isn’t going to save the soul without a priority.
You lack a priority and a purpose.
Without a clear focus on the one project you should be working on, all of your projects suffer. Like the mythical multitasker, when you can’t focus on just one project, you’re sacrificing your focus on the big project that could actually make a difference.
Maybe you try to create more time by staying up late, obsessing over time management or taking stimulants. This is a losing game, too. You’re sacrificing mental energy and performance when you don’t sleep, obsessing over time management ironically takes time, and stimulants wear off.
You just need a priority. One priority. One singular thing that you bust ass on until it’s done, then you can move on to the next thing.
Having a priority is more important than making time.
Focus on priority management before time management. I’m not saying that you’ll never work another all-nighter again, but by focusing on your priority instead of spreading yourself too thin, you’ll be better off.
Your priority starts with a purpose.
My personal purpose is to create a life of comfort and curiosity for my family. That means I want to spend time with my family as much as possible, study with my son, have game night with the entire family, get my family involved in training our pets and being active, etc. Family is the focus, the purpose.
Now that I have a focus and a purpose, what’s one priority project that I can work on to make sure I get that time with my family? What’s the one thing I can do to make the rest easier?
Building a passive income is my answer to that question. I have a priority goal. Now, what’s the next step I can take that will either make my goal easier or eliminate other steps in moving toward my priority? That becomes my priority task, and I work on that task until it’s complete.
To recap – the process goes like this:
- Determine your purpose
- Find a priority goal that aligns with your purpose.
- Determine the one priority task that moves you toward that goal.
- Do said task until it’s done.
Focus on leverage first.
I’m sure most of you have heard of the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto’s Principle.
Essentially – 80% of the results come from 20% of the (insert word here – effort, customers, employees, investments, etc.).
In the case of having one priority at a time – your biggest challenge is figuring out what that priority should be. Eliminate the project juggling and focus exclusively on the 20% project that will give you the biggest payoff. Whether that’s writing an article to increase your passive income or pitching a lead for your next freelance project – figure out what you need to do, then do it with a laser focus.
Once you’re on the right track with working on high-leverage tasks, you can either delegate or eliminate the rest, but that’s a story for another time.
Switching gears is sometimes necessary.
As a family man and pet owner, sometimes emergencies happen that my passive income can’t handle. An unexpected, super-high water bill from a leak I was unaware of. One of the pets got sick. My son slashed my tires.
Things happen that may cause your priority to shift. That’s alright, as long as you realize that you’re trading your focus for something else. I’ve handled situations like the ones above by switching my priority to my freelance business.
I stop drafting new articles and start finding a group of qualified leads, pitching them all to see who bites, then choosing one project to work on that will yield the money that later becomes the solution to my problem.
It’s fine if your priority changes, as long as you recognize it as a shift and do it consciously instead of letting somebody else determine what your priority should be. You need to realize that what you do is your choice.
Stop wasting time management.
Time management is an important skill to develop, but it won’t do you any good unless you focus on the bigger picture and plan the steps to get there.
Put all of your juggled projects on the table, see which one has the most promise or makes your other projects easier, then focus on that project alone until it’s done.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” to new projects. Sometimes people will ask you to work on something – say “no.” Sometimes you’ll get sidetracked and pick up a new project, yourself – again, say “no.” Sometimes what you decide not to do can be just as important as what you do. Don’t be afraid to make a choice – your future depends on it.
We would love to hear about your next priority in the comments – what’s the next step you’re going to take to reach your goal and support your purpose? What will you have to turn down to pursue that goal?