Majoring on the Majors by Learning to Say NO

Controlling our tendency toward Creative Avoidance

By Kevin M

How is it that that some people seem enormously successful, yet astoundingly they have more free time than the rest of us? Have you ever noticed as well that some people who are incredibly busy are at best only moderately successful? Perhaps you’re one of them, always busy, but not having as much to show for your efforts as you think you should.

The typical human reaction to this apparent contradiction in the natural order of things is to assume that the successful person with all the time on his hands is a) lucky, b) has an “in” with important people, and even c) must be doing something unethical, immoral or illegal.

While each of those considerations isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, there’s a far greater chance that the successful person with all of the free time on his hands has found a way to
maximize his results while minimizing his efforts. He manages to do this by saying “NO” to unproductive tasks, either by making it clear to others up front that he won’t engage himself in them, or by simply refusing to participate.

Logically, isn’t that what we should all be doing?

Being busy won’t get you where you want to go

No one wins a prize, lands an important client or earns the biggest paycheck as a result of being the busiest person. Having been in that very position myself, I’ve learned that the busiest person in a company, department or family is often the organizational enabler, making it possible for others to engineer great accomplishments.

Sadly, the busiest person in an organization isn’t even the person most likely to be promoted. That’s quite possibly because the decision makers want the busy person right where she is, cleaning up and plugging holes for others. Every organization needs just such a person doing exactly what she does right where she is.

There’s nothing wrong with being diligent, with being the “go-to” guy or girl in your organization, but if you want more out of your job or career, or want to break into something completely different, you’ll need to get over your addiction to busyness and focus your efforts primarily on activities that will put the most money in your pocket—majoring on the majors!

In order to do that, we need to learn to say “no” or to otherwise disengage ourselves from unproductive activities.

Majoring on the minors

When your income is thoroughly dependent on accomplishing a relatively small number of major projects that define your career, all that efficiency you develop on small tasks becomes counter productive.

We can become so comfortable handling a large number of small tasks in assembly line fashion, that major projects can “get in the way”, always being relegated to the bottom of a never ending To Do List!

Being massively efficient in getting small tasks done can produce a false sense of security. We’re busy getting a lot of details taken care of so we feel as if we’re productive. But if we finish many small tasks and by the end of the day we haven’t completed that one major project or closed sale, we’ve failed to make meaningful progress. A complete shift in mindset is required.

Getting out of the weeds

We’ve all heard the term, “you can’t see the forest for the trees”, and that’s basically what happens when we get so caught up in the details of our business that we’re deep in it, but never on top of it. In that position we’re unaware of the big picture and thus unable to work it to any real advantage.

What can we do to get out of the weeds and centered on majoring on the majors in our careers or businesses?

Establish priorities. At the risk of being redundant, the priority must become the priority! All other distractions need to be delegated, discarded or otherwise minimized. The reality of life is that there will always be endless details that need to be attended, and we need to find ways to manage these. Succeeding at one major activity has more life transforming potential than accomplishing a dozen minor tasks efficiently.

Clear away the clutter. Look for ways to simplify life. We buy things and involve ourselves in more activities than we can comfortably accommodate. In business, if something isn’t working, get rid of it. Also eliminate business activities that are only marginally useful. The key is to clear your desk and your schedule to spend as much time as possible on activities that put money in your pocket.

Focus on the major objective. Our major objective has to be in front of us at all times, otherwise “urgent but not important” tasks will continue to dominate our time and energy. Only by concentrating our most productive time and efforts on life changing activities can we hope to get from where we are to where we want to go. The objective must be central in our thinking and planning. Use placards or computer screen savers posting your major objective so you’ll always be aware of it, then prepare to always work the details around the objective.

Concentrate on the one or two things you do best. Most of us can do one or two things very well, but when we get caught up trying to do too many things, we become the preverbal “jack of all trades, master of none”. While the rest of the world works 40, 50, 60 hours per week and more, many successful people work only 20-30 hours. But the entirety of that time is spent working on activities that put money in their pockets. We can’t balance the trivial with the meaningful, because the trivial has no constructive limit. And no matter how much of the trivial we work on, it won’t change our circumstances.

Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen (see ad banner to the left of this post) and Les Hewitt, success coaches and authors of The Power of Focus: What the Worlds Greatest Achievers Know about The Secret of Financial Freedom and Success (available at Amazon) had this to say on the subject:

“Working harder and longer hours will not solve your dilemma…You must invest most of your time every week doing what you do best, and let others do what they do best.”

“Remember, your bottom line income is directly linked to the amount of time spent in our areas of brilliance.”

Manage your time. Learn what times of the day you’re most productive, and dedicate that time to your major objective. It’s not always a matter of time invested, but the quality of the time that makes the difference. If you’re a morning person, block out the first four or five hours of each day for your major objective, and hold detail work for later in the day. The key is to give your major objective your best time.

Guard your non-business activities. One of the often ignored “details” in life is what we do in our non-business time. In trying to accomplish anything worthwhile, we may have to give up some un-productive spare time activities in favor of greater effort at our major objective. One of the biggest time wasters is television, but it has plenty of company in the form of computer games, shopping and various gadget obsessions. Simplicity requires that we eliminate as many non-essential past times as possible. Upshot: once we begin succeeding in our major objective, we’ll have even more time for non-business activities.

Take charge of “people issues”. Do you have people in your life who always need your attention? You know, the type who always seem to have a crisis going on. And always said person comes to you to help them weather the storm. The problem is that their storm never seems to end, and neither does your involvement. If you have people like this in your life, you may need to find a way of gently moving them out of your way. Immediate family are your obligations, but friends, coworkers and extended family are another matter entirely. It’s one thing to help someone through a crisis, but quite another when their entire lives are one giant crisis. This is draining emotionally, and it will take away from your major objective.

 
The key is to focus your best time on your goals—to major on the majors—to minimize attention to never ending detail and learning to say “no”, either literally or figuratively, to people and activities that take you away from that objective.
 

If you’re making a significant change in your life, what are some methods your using to keep you focused on majoring on the majors?”

One Response to Majoring on the Majors by Learning to Say NO

  1. I took a good moment to read this. Broadly speaking, I strongly agree with the notion of all the things one needs to say no to. Of how it interferes with our needs (or desires) to accomplish our ambitions.

    The best part of this post was when you stopped by the redundancy department of redundancy on establishing priorities. Clearly It’s a good point to make, and quite clearly most people clearly don’t take that into account. :B

Leave a reply