Tasks matter. Tasks are all about doing your work. Whether your work is outside or indoors, behind a desk or beside a production line, your day is made up of many tasks. If you don’t “work” or find employment in a way that our society values as work, you still probably have your own form of work such as being a student, concentrating on something, or practicing something.
Do you have stuff in your life that you don’t really want to do? Around my place, nobody likes homework or chores. Nearly every career or job has less desirable aspects. But those tasks still need to be done. In my work as a chaplain and pastor, I love tasks that involve communicating with people. I find joy in helping someone trade confusion for clarity, push to a new level of effectiveness, or grow in some other way. For me, there are many admin tasks such as paying bills, doing taxes, filing reports, recording minutes, etc. that seem to suck energy out of my soul.
If you have tasks like this in your life, one of the best things you can do is knock those tasks out on a regular basis using as little time and effort as possible. The more efficiently and quickly you can knock out these ankle-biters, the better. It’s not that tasks like these don’t matter, because obviously you need to get them done. But there’s no point wasting excess time or energy on things that are not truly important.
First I talked about the tasks that are necessary but not really a priority. So what about the work that you and I think really matters? What is it that lies at the heart of what you do for a living or what you do with your life? I’ve gotten crap from people for years for caring too much about my work, but I think good work matters and speaks for itself. We are surrounded by stuff that is dishonest, non-sensical, not meant to last, not effective, and generally lacking in quality.
Fake applies to so many things in our society besides the latest “alternative facts” coming from the White House. If you can do your work, your passion, your hobby with quality, it’s going to stand out and it’s going to be a contribution to the community. I still remember a Marine Corps instructor who taught tactics at the US Army Armor School when I was there in 2006. He said regularly: “Do simple things well.” Cut to the clearest simplest version of what it is that you do, and do it with excellence. Don’t try to be overly fancy or attention-getting. Let your work make an impact on its merit.
Tasks: Choosing What Matters
If you think about the overarching strategy of your life or work, and if you narrow down 3-4 key priorities to achieve that strategy, you can really start to decide which tasks matter the most for reaching your goal. Most of us don’t fail to accomplish big things in our lives because we are incapable of accomplishing big things. We fail to accomplish big things because we overestimate our ability to do big things quickly and easily. We run out of energy and patience because we took a short term approach.
That sounds like bad news. But there’s good news. The other reason we fail to accomplish big things is because we underestimate our ability to do big things over the long term through incremental achievable effort. This is why strategy and priorities matter. And this is how prioritizing the many tasks you do can make a big difference in your life and work.
Making It Matter
You might have noticed that I didn’t weigh in much on values, as I talked about thinking through a TPS (tasks, priorities, strategies) approach to your life or work. TPS can help anyone live their daily life according to their bigger values. It’s a way to think about ordering your effort, but it doesn’t provide what’s needed to do it wisely. I haven’t said much so far about whether some values are better or worse. Since I’m a pastor, you can probably guess I am opinionated about this. It’s a great conversation to have. Our community and our nation would be better off if we could find some sense of shared values and unity. Part of the reason we are so badly polarized in the United States is that we don’t share a birds-eye strategy or priorities for our nation.
You matter to our community. Your impact can make a difference. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that have sprung from this weekly column, and am looking forward to many more in the coming months. Feel free to email or connect with me over at Wymer.com anytime.