What’s Essential?

Why is it so easy to get distracted from pursuing our goals?  Even more so, why does it often seem like our progress is moving at glacier-like speed, leaving us feeling like we’ll never get where we’re trying to go in life?  I think it’s possible that we’re concentrating our efforts on tasks that won’t yield the high level of results we’re looking for.

I was reading Pamela Slim’s book “Escape from Cubicle Nation” recently (yes, I’m planning an escape!) about a person who was gaining control over their finances.  When asked what the most important thing they did to gain control over their finances was, they responded with, “Simplify to identify what’s essential, and then eliminate as much as possible everything that isn’t essential.”

That makes perfect sense in the context of personal finance.  It also got me thinking about how this same principle could be applied to the pursuit of goals.  I find plenty of examples in my own life where my focus is on something that is non-essential to an objective I’m trying to achieve.  The result is usually wasted time and delayed results.

For example, I recently signed up and created a user profile on a social networking site for voice overs.  As part of creating my profile, there was an option to add a photo.  A photo wasn’t required, it was optional.  Stated another way, it was non-essential to creating my profile.  Would you believe I wasted close to an hour trying to decide on the right photo to use?  What’s wrong with me?!  I had plenty of other essential tasks to do, instead of wasting time on this non-essential task.  (In my own defense, I learned this concept AFTER the incident I just described)

It’s amazing how quickly an hour can be lost to a non-essential task.  Imagine doing several non-essential tasks over the course of a day, a week, or a month.  Carry that out a year, and it’s staggering to see the negative compounding effect of wasting time on things that aren’t essential.

If you really want to cause something to happen in your life, start identifying what’s essential and what’s not.  Strive to spend the large majority of your time on essential tasks, and seek to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the amount of time you spend on non-essential tasks.  You’ll notice a marked increase in the progress you make toward achieving your goals.


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