In today’s world, we’re constantly sabotaged by nonproductive energy wasters: email, Facebook, paperwork to be organized and on and on. These are the easy, albeit often unproductive, tasks that make us feel good. They may not get you any closer to accomplishing your greater goals, but at least you’ve checked a couple of things off your to-do list.
Unfortunately, says Vickie Milazzo, this addiction comes at a high price, because that cheap checkmark high is guaranteed to frustrate, overwhelm and stress you out in the long term. You feel busier than ever but are accomplishing less of real value. “I, too, am a happy checker-offer,” says Milazzo, author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman.” “Working for two hours on a huge project I won’t finish doesn’t release the same amount of endorphins as cleaning out my inbox. After two hours or so, I want to check something off my list. That’s when I indulge my own feel-good addiction and attack the stack of bills, plow into the financials or grab my mouse to viciously click through my email.”
Are these feel-good tasks the best use of our time? No, says Milazzo, and they often snowball until an entire workday is behind you. One email leads to two. After all, it only takes two minutes to fire off an email. Then there are calls to be returned. Two minutes turns into 20 as one item leads to another. Even if you set them aside once you put your attention to them, these small tasks buzz around in your head and have the potential to distract you for hours. Before you know it, quitting time arrives, and you haven’t accomplished a single step toward your most important goals.
“Maybe it’s the curse of the modern world, but often, our important tasks fall prey to the feel-good addictions of easy ones,” Milazzo confronts. “By majoring in minor things, we never get to our big commitments. Breaking these addictions opens the door to achievement. What you engage and focus on is where you will yield results.
“Going after larger accomplishments — an addiction to momentum — is a far more lasting high than the transitory feel-good of checking off trivial tasks. Once you’re engaged in accomplishing what I call the ‘Big Things,’ you’ll approach routine matters with laser-sharp focus, quickly deleting, delegating and experiencing fewer distractions. More important, your creativity and productivity catch fire, and the momentum keeps you pumped. You’ll glide through your day full of confidence and satisfaction from achieving significant milestones.”
Here are 12 easy steps to help you stop doing what feels good and start doing what matters:
Define three Big Things. Identify three Big Things that connect to your passionate vision, then choose one to schedule your day around. For example, your Big Things might be to live by the ocean or achieve financial security. So today you might start the search for your beachfront property. Or maybe you’ll develop a household budget. “Set a target date for each of your Big Things,” Milazzo advises. “And begin working steadily toward achieving each of them. Start strong and you’ll experience genuine elation from achieving real goals and solving real problems.”
Challenge your plan of action. Often, we take a tiny step toward achieving a Big Thing to save us from having to make a big commitment and to ward off feeling guilty about not going after our passions. For example, flipping through a magazine on beach properties might make you feel better, but it isn’t really helping you achieve your goal. “Constantly ask yourself, Am I really going for my goal all the way? Or if it’s too tough, will I quit?” Milazzo suggests. “Make sure your plan of action is doable. Assess each step when you are taking it and make sure it’s the right thing for you to be engaged in at that time.”