How to Do What's Most Important to You Every Single Day

By Ethan Maurice | February 8, 2017

I don't know anyone who thinks there's too much time in a day. It's rare that we accomplish everything we hoped to. We begin the day with great intentions but, come the end of it, finish with tasks we intended to but didn't reach.

The problem is that the tasks we don't get to are often the most important ones. We don't hesitate to begin what's urgent or easy, which often leads to putting off the more difficult and important things later in our day.

As a writer, my hardest task to accomplish is, paradoxically, writing. For me, writing is difficult, deliberate work. When I think about beginning, everything else on my "to-do list" becomes very attractive. I spent months relying on sheer discipline to write for The Living Theory, until eventually discovering something much more effective: eliminating less important ways I spend my time.

By eliminating what is the least important, we can create space for what is the most. Once again, this is vital because we tend to do the less important tasks instead of the most important ones.

Understanding this, I've removed three less important things from my life over the past year:

  • My startup company. A year ago, I had two major pursuits: The Living Theory and a startup I was building called DormGoggles. Working on both projects at the same time, I wasn't fully dedicated to either. I made the difficult decision to put off DormGoggles indefinitely, a project I'd put money and hundreds of hours of work into.

  • Television. I used to watch an episode of TV or a movie most nights. Other than a movie with friends once every couple months, I don't watch TV anymore.

  • Scrolling through social media. “Scrolling” is the bane of social media—aimless browsing that consumes so much of our time. When I now catch myself “scrolling,” an alarm goes off in my head and I stop immediately.

Sometimes we have to stop doing what is good to make room for what is great. I revel in the occasional movie and thought DormGoggles had a good shot at success, but I value writing and The Living Theory more. Because my most important work wasn't getting enough attention, I cut them both from my life. I now write more and read more, and The Living Theory is growing faster than ever.

Rather than relying on discipline to choose the right thing for ourselves each day, we can just eliminate the alternative, thus eliminating the choice. If you're not spending enough time on what's most important to you, here's a simple way to determine what to remove from your life:

1. Spend five minutes listing as many things that you do as you can think of.

2. Using that first list, make a second one, putting each thing you do in order from most to least important.

3. Keep eliminating what's on the bottom of the list from your life until you're spending enough time doing what's on top.

Note: Some things on the bottom of your list might be things you absolutely have to do. Think creatively about ways to remove or spend less time on them, but if they're necessary, remove a higher listed item from your life.

This is simple, but not easy. You won't want to eliminate anything from your life. You'll tell yourself that you can do it all. If you're not spending enough time on what's most important to you now, though, something has to change.

Consider this: If an entrepreneur doesn't spend time on her venture, is she an entrepreneur? If a student doesn't spend time on his classes, is he a student? If an artist doesn't spend time on her art, is she an artist?

We are defined not by our aspirations, but our actions. And if our actions don't align with our aspirations, our actions must change.




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