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Enhance Your Life: Going Beyond What’s Important to What’s Crucial

Enhance Your Life: Going Beyond What’s Important to What’s Crucial
    Climb past what’s important to discover what’s crucial in your life

    When taking on the project of improving your productivity, you’ll undoubtedly come across two words that go hand-in-hand with the practice: important and urgent. These two words often intertwine depending on what your priorities are and how well you’re keeping up with what you’ve got on the go.

    Knowing what the difference between important and urgent is a challenge for many, but once you’ve been doing it for a while it gets easier. It may not get easier to get the important stuff done before it turns into something urgent, but that’s a whole other matter. Another challenge is to remember that this is your time being spent, whether it is on a project or a task. How you plot out what each tasks means to you and to your time is worthy of strong consideration because if you simply jot things down without contemplating how they’ll be impacted by the time you have to offer and how they’ll impact the time you have to have available, you’ll end up in a state of overwhelm — and a very long to-do list.

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    Categorizing the levels of importance and urgency is another necessity. There’s no definitive way to organize these thoughts, but a common method is to use Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrant Matrix.

      Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants

      Covey’s matrix is still a resource for many who are trying to decide how and where to spend their time. But considering that it appeared in the book First Things First back in 1994, back when time management and productivity strategies didn’t have the benefit (or informational overflow) of the Internet, it could use a retooling. That may sound bold, but while the idea of Covey’s matrix still has some merit, the problem lies in the words used in the matrix itself.

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      The Problem with Important

      The problem with important these days is that it is thrown around with little regard to what it means. In fact, it’s used so much that the word itself doesn’t seem to be as, well, important as it once was. Things that are important often are just things that have to get done, but have little resonance beyond that – they aren’t attached to anything deeper or more meaningful in the greater scheme of things. Anything with the word urgent attached to it will always feel stronger because of the need for it to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Even in passing, when someone says the word “urgent”, it creates a feeling or sense of immediacy. Unless someone is looking you straight in the eye, is genuinely in the moment and says the word “important” can it even come close to having the impact intended. The only way it gets closer is if you feel that what they are attaching to the word important to is actually important to you as well.

      The word crucial, however, doesn’t get thrown around as much. Better still, when someone uses the word in the same manner as they used important as mentioned above, the ability to feel how much it matters to them all the more. When something is said to be crucial, it means that it is “of great importance” by definition alone. It’s possible that the other manner is which the word crucial is used – decisive or critical, especially in the success or failure of something: i.e. negotiations were at a crucial stage – adds instant power to the word it wouldn’t otherwise have, but the effects are still the same. When something is said to be crucial, you know it’s important. When something is said to be important, well…results may vary.

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      The key to really doing what matters on an overall scale – using David Allen’s Horizons of Focus as a measuring stick – you need to first earn to separate the urgent from the important and then curate what’s important to what’s crucial. Everything you do should lead to the great goal of what is crucial to you living a happy life. The amount of things that need to be done that are urgent should be minimal, because they generally serve to keep you occupied from what’s crucial to your overall goals in life. The amount of things that are important should be examined to separate what is important over the short term versus the long term. You may find that what you thought was important really isn’t at all. Often, these things are just things that will become urgent if you let them slide for too long, but they aren’t of any overarching importance. It’s those things that are crucial to you getting to where you want to be that will define your outcomes far great than anything else you do. You need to be clear on those so that you can map out how you’re going to achieve your goals – and your dreams.

      A New Productivity Paradigm

        Covey’s matrix with a “Crucial Cube” inserted

        Rather than use a quadrant to look at how to measure your actions and projects going forward, I suggest you do what I’ve done, and place a box in the dead center of the diagram. It’s what I call a Crucial Cube.

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        Sure, it isn’t exactly a cube (but Crucial Square doesn’t sound as appealing), but by adding it to the diagram the focus shifts to what’s crucial to you overall rather than what isn’t. Placing it in the centre draws focus, allows you to start there and finish on the outer realms or vice versa. The key is it gets you looking at what you really want to achieve and still displays the supporting things you can do to get there. The Crucial Cube feeds off of the remaining quadrants and the quadrants are fueled by what’s in the Crucial Cube.

        Getting clear on what’s crucial is the most beneficial thing you can do to enhance your productivity, your balance and your life. Doing so could be the productivity wake-up call you need, the jumpstart to getting where you know you can be – and want to be. Moving beyond the word “important” and making a conscious choice to use the word “crucial” instead will power up your life in a simple, yet profound way.

        The Crucial Takeaway

        Adopting a new habit is never easy, but with focus and perseverance, it can happen a lot faster. Take some time to really look at how you’re managing your time and your life, as well as what words you’re using in the process.

        • Understand urgency and how to deal with it.
        • Investigate importance so that you can separate what is from what isn’t, bringing power back to the word by doing so.
        • Cultivate what is crucial and you’ll enhance your life.

        Give the diagram above a try. Write down what you feel is crucial to (and for) you inside a Crucial Cube. Then build the matrix around that, allowing the items inside to feed off the cube’s contents and vice versa. Let me know how it worked for you in the comments.

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        Last Updated on August 16, 2018

        16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

        16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

        The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

        How about a unique spin on things?

        These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

        1. Empty your mind.

        It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

        Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

        Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

        Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

        How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

        2. Keep certain days clear.

        Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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        This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

        3. Prioritize your work.

        Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

        Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

        Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

        How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

        4. Chop up your time.

        Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

        5. Have a thinking position.

        Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

        What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

        6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

        To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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        Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

        7. Don’t try to do too much.

        OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

        8. Have a daily action plan.

        Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

        Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

        9. Do your most dreaded project first.

        Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

        10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

        The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

        11. Have a place devoted to work.

        If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

        But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

        Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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        Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

        12. Find your golden hour.

        You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

        Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

        Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

        Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

        13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

        It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

        By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

        Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

        14. Never stop.

        Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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        Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

        There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

        15. Be in tune with your body.

        Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

        16. Try different methods.

        Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

        It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

        Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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