Keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” - Steven R. Covey
What do you do? It’s a simple question, yet one that’s difficult for a lot of professionals to answer. That’s because we do so much. Our days are so jam-packed with work, scheduling, research, meetings, management, phone calls, administration, social media and other miscellaneous tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of our central purpose or mission. Fortunately, the solution lies with you. Let’s look at how you can “keep the main thing, the main thing”.
Main Thing: Your essential mission or purpose. This is the thing that inspires or excites you. It’s what keeps you up at night.
Minor Thing: The little tasks that cause headaches and stress without directly helping to achieve your goals.
We live in a world overwhelmed by the minor. Minor tasks pop up and add up, distracting us from the main thing. I see it happen to organizations everyday. A tidal wave of minor tasks floods individuals and the main thing gets washed away. The next thing you know, the minor things become the main thing – eating up the majority of your time. Then you wonder why things are not getting done or goals are not being accomplished. It’s a counterproductive cycle that professionals get stuck in far too often.
Follow these four steps to stay focused on the main thing and achieve your goals:
#1 - Identify the main thing
What is your goal? What are you working for? Before you can take action to better focus on your main thing, you need to know what your main thing is. Write down a single sentence describing your mission or purpose (this may prove to be more difficult than you think). Use that sentence as a reminder. Print it out or write it down, and post it in a spot where you will see it every single day – like above your computer. This will help you stay focused on your mission.
#2 – Know where your time is going
The next step is awareness. You have to recognize that minor things are monopolizing your time and work to do something about it. In any given day, you should not let the minor things take up more than 30% of your time. Keep a log or record of your time for an entire week. Analyze how you are spending your time. Is your time spent primarily on the main thing (tasks that contribute to your mission) or it mostly spent on minor things? From there, you can take action or develop a strategy to better focus on your main thing.
#3 – Organize and prioritize
Once you figure where your time is going and what minor things are taking you away from your main thing, you need to make some adjustments. That’s where organization and prioritization come into play. One of the reasons people let themselves get overwhelmed by the minor is because it’s easier to focus on smaller tasks than larger ones. A way to overcome that is to whittle your main thing down into smaller tasks like daily, weekly or monthly goals. From there, you can map out how much times you want to spend on accomplishing that goal (for example: 5 hours/day). Yes, things will come up from time to time. But having a set schedule gives you something to aspire to.
#4 – Trust the people you work with/Work with people you trust
For professionals and leaders, a lot of time can get eaten up doing the jobs of others. It’s easy to get derailed focusing on their work, rather than your work. The way to solve this problem is investing your team with greater responsibility, independence and trust. That may mean handing over the reins and relinquishing a little bit of control. Or bringing in people who you know will get the job done right. An organization functions like a chain, where every link must be strong. Across the board, everyone needs to be focused on his or her main thing. Otherwise, one person’s main thing easily becomes another person’s minor thing.
Don’t give minor things the power to keep you from working to accomplish your overall mission. Make a concentrated effort to stay focused on the main thing. As a result, you will find your workday is filled with a lot less stress and a much greater sense of accomplishment.