Whether you are running a startup, building a relationship, or rebuilding a community, there’s an easy part and a hard part. One requires less work in the moment while the other unlocks the potential of your efforts and concurrently is the playground for personal growth.
Those comfortable things that require little thinking, risk, or effort exist to test you. They can easily chew up your time and trick you into thinking you’re being productive. Updating your Facebook status, gossiping with colleagues, or going to yet another lunch are not the activities that will enable your achievement. It’s the things you resist – those that are challenging and at times a bit scary – that are the real work.
Let’s say you run a software company. Planning the holiday party and decorating the lobby are not the activities that will drive sales. Making that 94th cold call, listening deeply to customers in order to better serve their needs, or taking extra time to build a creative culture… those are far more difficult, yet will add a lot more value than simply going through the motions.
So many people fall into the ‘being productive’ trap. Even though they squander their time on things that can barely be justified as adding value, the end of the day comes with you feeling as though a contribution has been made. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, you’re job isn’t just to stay busy. It is to prioritize your efforts and do the things that will add the most value – even when they’re more difficult.
Most organizations are filled with people spending 90% of their time doing the easy part; the tasks that require little insight and have no ambiguity. By definition, the things that are clear-cut have the least room for innovation. The hard part is where competitive advantage is won. Where careers are made. Where civilizations advance.
Take a quick inventory of this week’s upcoming calendar. Are your days packed with activities that you could do just fine with a hangover, or are you investing your time in value creation? Does the art of creative problem solving or unleashing your imagination require work, risk, and energy? Will it help you and your organization seize significant growth? Absolutely.
What’s the hard part in your organization? What’s the hard part in your life? Identify and sprint toward the hard part to enjoy the rewards that those other timid souls can only daydream about while they’re staying busy doing the easy part.