Put Your Most Important Outcome First

Whatever is your most important outcome, do the work required until completion, or until you have made enough progress to reach a natural breaking point—and enough progress to stay on course. If you don’t start with the most important outcome, distractions and interruptions will encroach on your time, making it less likely you do meaningful work or enough of it to make a difference.

If you have finished the work that would generate your most important outcome, move on to the next most important outcome. Note that outcomes are not tasks; they are the natural result of doing particular work, specific tasks. By moving on to what is next most important, you are moving towards your outcomes and your goals.

Let’s look at this in practice.

What is the outcome you are trying to produce when you open your email first thing in the morning? You either want to catch up on all the tasks and outcomes other people have placed in your inbox, or you want to clean it up before starting work, both of which should not be—can not be—the most important outcome you need to produce. No one is going to believe that this was the most critical initiative for which you are responsible (unless your compensation structure rewards you for answering your email).

If you open the social sites, the outcome is distraction or escapism (and now, maybe habit). There is nothing wrong with variety, entertainment, or escapism—except when it takes priority over more important things. There is a reason why ants do better than grasshoppers; one is industrious, the other spends all their time playing.

It doesn’t help you to clean your desk, sharpen your pencils, reorganize your junk drawer, play with productivity tools, spend time reading or watching content on the web (including this content, which will help you perform better, but only if you act on it).

When you have done the work to produce the second most important outcome, start on the third.

Wasting minutes leads to wasted hours. Wasted hours leads to wasted days. Wasted days leads to wasted weeks. Since you only have roughly 4,000 weeks, maybe don’t waste any of them.

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