“What are you putting off out of fear?….I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
– Tim Ferris
I recently announced my plan to leave my 9-5 career within three years, in short by converting location independent side hustles into full time entrepreneurship. January 2021. Last week, the clock started running. It’s funny what happens when you set a goal, give it a deadline, and proceed to share it with the world.
Well, my little corner of the world anyway.
All of the sudden, out of nowhere, this incredible sense of urgency materializes.. Business ideas or creative projects I’d previously dismissed as a “Someday, maybe…” reappear, vying for my attention.
Clamouring for action.
Everything becomes important. ‘Upskilling’ is suddenly a personal buzz word. That course I thought of taking in 6 months? Better get cracking in February. That website I was going to build next summer? It’s on the docket for next week. One by one, the to-do list grows, becoming suspended in my mind like a giant collection of must-do’s.
There’s something about all of this that feels very positive. All of the busyness is fuelled by an excitement I haven’t felt in some time. I have a renewed energy and sense of purpose.
This can only be good, right?
Here’s the list of to-do items I began to compile for the month of January:
- Finish writing content/posts for new website.
- Launch new website on or around January 15th.
- Write 4 to 5 posts for blog.
- Refresh MMM homepage???
- Complete at least 3 units of digital marketing course.
- Finish up mix/master of recording project (9 songs remaining)
- Reach out to 2-3 potential digital marketing clients/influencers.
- Finish the two books I’m currently reading.
- Stay on top of email
Did I mention that I work 40 hours a week, and have a family?
When I finally took a moment to look over my must-do list, I realized something. There was no sense of priority. In my mind, every task was as important as the next. I mean, I was committed to keeping that email inbox at ZERO!
Instead, what I was really doing was confusing the adding-on of activities with progress towards my goal.
I realized that I was being far too ambitious, and couldn’t possibly complete everything I’d set out to do.
So I took another look at my list, and asked myself the following questions:
If I could only accomplish ONE task in January, which would add the most value?
Which tasks would move me closer to my goal?
Which task was I most afraid of? Most reluctant to tackle?
Asking the tough questions provided real clarity.
It would make NO difference if the new website wasn’t ready until February, or later for that matter. Homepage refresh? Purely cosmetic. Staying on top of my email might actually move me farther AWAY from my goal. Most of the list was purely superficial, and only gave the impression of progress.
As it turned out, the most important task I could tackle this month was the toughest one, in my mind. It was also the least time consuming.
I decided to push past my fear and insecurity, and reach out to 2-3 potential digital marketing clients/influencers.
RELATIONSHIPS MATTER MOST
Last night, I had a 2 1/2 hour conversation with a successful digital marketer/online entrepreneur. He’s built six-figure businesses, and has worked with over 300 clients, including many large companies. By chance, I stumbled upon a (video) podcast he was a featured guest on a couple of months ago, and knew that he could provide valuable feedback on my plans to build my business.
He also happens to be a close friend who I haven’t seen several years.
It’s amazing how the passage of time falls away when you re-connect with a good friend. It was so wonderful to catch up, talk about our families and share some fond memories. It was a great reminder that relationship is what matters most.
How to summarize a near 3 hour conversation within a few sentences? Well, for starters, it was a game changer. One of the biggest value adds I’ve had since I started blogging. He looked at my list of projects/side hustles with a fresh set of eyes, and then challenged me with some tough questions of his own. He shared some of his successes, and failures.
And he made some recommendations. Frankly, there were a few I was not expecting. He saw strengths and opportunity in places I didn’t. And he dismissed a couple of ideas I thought were pretty solid.
My brain hurt this morning as I attempted to grasp his somewhat different vision for my business. Then something clicked, and ideas began to emerge. I began to see that there is a path to follow.
I won’t share his feedback with you in detail today, but for one thing.
“Three years. Your timeline is too long.”
Look closely at the tasks you have on your personal must-do list.
Whether you dream of entrepreneurship, debt reduction, financial independence, you name it, can you identify the most important one?
Which task will move you closest to that dream?
Take my advice, start with the one you fear the most.
22 thoughts on “Your Most Important Task Probably Isn’t”
Good points. It reminds me of the 80/20 rule. 20% of the things we do will make up 80% of our success.
It is important to focus on what really will move the needle as time is valuable to all of us.
20/80. That’s another great way to look at it, and something I’ll definitely give some thought to. Thanks DM!
I like the Tim Ferris quote you lead with. It definitely should be tattooed on our foreheads.
Your Questions and Clarity sections are right on, and I can relate. We are 3 1/2 months from retirement and have several daunting lists of our own. It will help to question those to-dos and maybe eliminate some unnecessary tasks and chaos. Great post! .
Thanks Mr. Grumby. I agree, Mr. Ferris’ words are a great reminder. Congrats on your upcoming retirement, I’ll definitely pick up the story over on your site!
Creating full time income from location independent would be amazing. I’ll be following you closely along the way. But first I’m going to take another look at my short and long term goals!
Hey Ty! The conversation I described was the closest thing to a mentoring/coaching session I’ve received since I got into blogging, and it was so valuable. I came away realizing that much of the activity I’m spending time on is not doing much to move me closer to my goal. Understanding that early on will probably prevent a lot of wasted time over the next 6-12 months. That being said, I’ve got lots of work (and learning) to do.
Sounds like you have quite the packed schedule!
Sometimes we get in our own way of loading up our plate with so many different things, that actually delay our progress. The most difficult thing to do at times is simplifying those tasks and concentrating on the ones that will get you to where you are trying to go the fastest.
Good luck with the new site and I can’t wait to see it!
I agree, and that’s exactly what began to happen with me this month. Fortunately I caught myself early on, and was able to make some changes!
I absolutely love this post. I’m getting to the point where I need to stop saying one day and set a real deadline to quit my job. They say there is never a right time/good time, to do something new. I’m finding that to be true now more than ever. There is a weird paradox brewing, I want to quit my job but the longer I stay and the more I make, the more I like the idea and security of an ever increasing paycheck.
Thank you for diving in deep and also posting your internal thought process in this post! Helps me out a lot.
Thanks MRC, I really appreciate you stopping by! I know exactly what you mean about wanting to step out, but feeling that safety net of the 9-5 paycheque. I’m actually planning to make an announcement in the next few weeks regarding my 2018 journey to break the 9-5 including the addition of regular content that will enable my readers to follow along. If this would be of interest to you, please stay tuned!
It’s funny how the most important task we need to accomplish is usually the least time consuming. It’s so common to relate the most time intensive tasks as being important when really it just sucks us into the “busy trap.” I work in business development and go through this all the time. Making sales calls is the most important part of my job (and least time consuming), but it’s so easy to spend my days driving around to visit current customers or go through my email.
Good luck with the new endeavors and crush that timeline!
Thanks Kyle, that’s a point that I missed in my post, but it’s so true. Not only is the most important task often the most difficult, but it’s usually the least time consuming. I had a couple evenings last week where I just didn’t have the time to spend on some bigger projects, so I decided to reach out to a couple of people via email instead. It took a fraction of the time, and I felt as though I’d accomplished as much or more than I’d originally planned. Thanks for reading!
Oh, God, MMM. You’re making me think. And that’s good. I definitely have too much on my plate. Got to start prioritizing. Thank you.
I gotta say, feels pretty good to be a source of inspiration for the mighty Mr. G, even if it’s a tiny amount! : ) This really is a struggle we all deal with from time to time, isn’t it. Something we have to constantly stay on top of. Thanks for stopping by!
Great reminder to avoid being “busy” with tasks that don’t add value. That’s one of my biggest goals this year is to focus on adding value. It’s time I looked fear in the face and stop avoiding.
I’m excited to follow your progress and watch your new game plan unfold. Great stuff!
Adding value, yes! Such a simple, yet great goal to shoot for. Of course, adding value is so closely tied to building relationships, which is a very central focus for me this year. I consider myself to be a very relational person, but I’m realizing that there are many areas where I can stretch myself in this area, and take things to another level.
We talk in much harsher tones to ourselves than we would to other people. Not to be too ambitious. and just stop making New Year resolutions. Plan for sure, but let go of trying to manage the outcomes.
So true, thanks for reading Elfriede!
Excellent post, MMM! We are undergoing a lot of change (moving to one income right now!) and I have been trying to focus in on areas of my/our life that I want to work on. There are many things I could focus on, but I am trying to prioritize now 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!
That’s such an exciting change AR (loved your post on this btw)! I know for myself, trying not to overthink things is important. I tend to process stuff to death, and listening to an outside voice is very important.
Why is it that it’s so much easier to look at someone else’s situation and have a clear idea of exactly what they should do, while flailing about in a fog of nearsightedness for ourselves? Few things are more valuable than getting a fresh perspective from someone else and I can see how energized and excited it has left you. I’m in a constant state of writing down every last thing in the world that I need to do and beyond a certain point, it is self-defeating. You are so right – it’s probably a lot better to allow your brain to spend the brunt of its energy thinking about those two or three really important things, and be strategic. Can’t wait to see where you net out will all your plans!
I know that feeling so well Linda, of having much more clarity when looking across at someone else. I think it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds, which are probably just a lot of fear and self doubt. We don’t feel or experience those things for other people, which helps to keep us above the fray. This year, I’m definitely making a point to get outside of my own head and seek voices that I trust. Thank you as always for your wonderful insight : )