Doing The Important Things

September 1, 2015
Doing The Important Things

Everyone is busy. It is been said that if you want something done, give it to the busy person. But sometimes we need to stop and ask are we busy doing the right things? Here is a partial checklist of ways to determine if what you’re doing is worth your time.

Number one is this truly necessary? It may be that we busy ourselves doing things that, if not done, do not matter.

Secondly, it may be that we are doing things that do not have to be done at the current time and might even be better planned to be completed later. An example might be balancing a checkbook multiple times a month when instead you could simply check in at the end of the month at one time.

Thirdly, am I doing something that would be better done by someone else? For many busy people, mowing grass is a job easily outsourced to a local teenager in the neighborhood that would free the working employee from owning and maintaining a mower, weed eater, a blower, multiple gas cans, oil cans and various other things. All that clutter can be gone and you can come home from work and notice that your yard is cut without you having to raise a finger. For the average person, the math works very nicely for what one pays for a teenager to do some cutting, versus the constant maintenance on equipment, sharpening the blades, filling up gas cans etc. Some people say that they actually save money by paying somebody to do it. I would think that there are a lot of variables here but it’s certainly a question to ask oneself, especially if you are taking time away from family or from earning potential.

Changing your own oil could be that way. A lot of times you can get an oil change for $19.95 to $29.95 and simply sit in the car and return phone calls or listen to a book on tape or something while someone else does what they are set up to do. You don’t have to worry about storing items or dealing with waiting in line to purchase the items and getting yourself dirty etc.

Fourthly, are you doing what you’re doing out of habit and not because it brings you joy or is especially useful? For instance, making one’s bed and arranging all those pillows just stinks. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if it brings one joy and gives you a sense of completeness to start your day, I would say more power to you. On the other hand if you shut your bedroom door and don’t see it again until time to go to bed, it may not be a useful way for you to spend the first 10 minutes of your day.

It’s seems to me the important question is whether or not what we are doing is accomplishing a purpose that we value? If it is, keep it up. Wash your car by hand if that gives you joy or a sense of completion. On the other hand, if you just get a quick car wash before you go to the meeting, run through a place that does it. Your time is one of your most valuable assets. It’s actually priceless because it is irreplaceable. Every time we choose to do an activity, whether it is cooking dinner or waiting in line, we are choosing against every other option on the face of the earth at that exact period of time.

That is what’s known in academia as “opportunity costs”. You’re making your choice at the cost of an opportunity to do something else. Every so often it’s probably a good reminder to stop and ask, “Is this the best way for me to accomplish the goals that I have?” It may be that it’s been so long since you’ve thought about it, that you don’t have a current list of goals you’re trying to accomplish. If so, today make a way to spend some valuable time looking at where you want to be this time next year. And then determine whether or not what you’re doing today heads you in that direction. For instance, if you really want to travel, figure out the cheapest way to get where you want to go, and then determine how many times you have to give up a Starbucks coffee in order to purchase those tickets. You may be surprised that over the next 12 to 18 months, you could probably meet a lot of goals that you didn’t know you had. And of course, we all know that setting goals is very important.

If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time.

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