It's Urgent, But Is It Really Important?

I recently read a great article in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Stop Paying Attention to the Non-Urgent in Your Life. Learn How to Single-Task” by Matt Mayberry. The article discusses how we can more effectively deal with our never ending to-do list.

3 months into the launch of my business, single tasking (yes, not multitasking) has been vital to my productivity.  

In the past, I prided myself on, as Matt Mayberry puts it, “the kind of productivity where you knock off 20 items from your to-do list while still managing to run 15 miles and respond to 20 emails.”  For the record, I couldn’t run the 15 miles (more like 3). The problem, summed up perfectly by Mayberry, is that “Even though multitasking may make you feel accomplished temporarily, it’s not a way to go about business or achieving your main goal”.

My to-do list grew exponentially when I started my business. The number of tasks checked off my list in a day became my barometer for success. Unfortunately, this wasn’t getting me closer to accomplishing my business goals.

I constantly see the same patterns with people when it comes to personal financial planning.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard, “I know planning is important, but it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my list”. 

No one argues that you need to have an estate plan, figure out the proper levels of insurance for you and your spouse, or have a game plan for saving. The problem is that none of these items jump out at you and flash “urgent” like the text you just received, your sick child, or the leaky faucet in your kitchen.

How do you move forward with planning your future while keeping up with the day to day demands of life? For me, it boils down to two things: prioritization and focus.

Prioritization

Everyone is busy but we all have the same 24 hours in a day. 

Take the time to step out of the race and look at what you are doing. Are you “putting out fires” or are you making progress toward your goals? We obviously can’t eliminate all of the urgent to do’s, because some of them, like a sick child, are important. 

However, if you look hard enough, you will find tasks that are less important than protecting and planning for your family’s future. 

Cutting down on Facebook or web surfing are easy ways to gain back some time.  Instead, use that time to start a conversation with a planner or lawyer about your estate plan.

Focus

Mayberry writes that “Once you’ve learned to give your undivided attention to that one thing --  to laser-focus on the important projects --  you will automatically shift into the flow. That’s because flow is how you get them done. You block out all extraneous noise, all phone calls, all menial tasks, all interruptions, and you just focus. You are able to sit and focus on that one task long enough to complete it. When you can work in the flow, you can accomplish anything.”  

My job consists of times where I need to be out meeting clients and other times where I need be crunching numbers and analyzing data and trends.  These are two completely different tasks that I have learned I cannot combine.  For my analytical work, I set aside 1 hour increments (and I use a timer) throughout my day where I mute my ringer and stay off of the internet, email and social media.  It’s amazing how much I can get done when I am focused on only one task.

Next time you think about your personal financial plan or your future, step back and try to prioritize your to-do’s at hand and then focus on the ones that will help you achieve your goals.