First Things First: Prioritising Progress

I’ve been a productivity nerd since day one. 

So much so, that I spent the summer between my first and second year at university reading books about studying – and no, I was not an education student…..

I did this because I had a seriously limited amount of time available for university, and needed to be as productive and effective as possible with the time I had.
Well, that and I love nerding out on productivity stuff.

I spoke about this at the Get Shit Done club yesterday afternoon in Wellington – and what an afternoon it was! I was in the company of four other incredible speakers, all of whom delivered a powerful, useful message about how to get more shit done. 

The thing about getting shit done, though, is that isn’t enough.

Productivity, being efficient and being effective are useless goals, unless we’re doing the right stuff in the first place.

 “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
– Peter Drucker

Without clarity on your most important priorities, there’s no guarantee that you’re focusing on the things that matter the most – so being productive and efficient could actually take you further away from your real potential for impact.

The key is taking AWAY the stuff that isn't mission critical, so you have the bandwidth to focus on what really matters.

The Warren Buffet two list approach to priority setting is a great example here.

As legend has it, Mike Flint, Buffet’s personal pilot for ten years, asked Warren’s advice about his career priorities. Warren instructed Mike to write down his top 25 career goals and bring them to him. When Mike had done this, Warren instructed him to choose the top five most important goals on the list. 
Mike was grateful and pledged to start working on the top 5 right away.

Warren asks him about the second list – “and what about the other 20 things? That you didn’t circle?”. Mike says “well, I’ll get to those as and when I can, while I make real progress on the top 5"

It was Warren’s response to this that threw Mike Flint, and is golden advice to all of us.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong! Everything you didn’t just pick, in the top 5, needs to be the Avoid-At-All-Costs list. Don’t give any one of those things your attention, until you’ve done your top 5…. Or you won’t do them.”

Or as C.S. Lewis would say:

“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lost both first and second things.”

What mildly important things  do you need to avoid, that will take you away from achieving your most important priorities?