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6 powerful ways to identify critical activities

It’s funny! The most important decisions or actions we need to take usually get postponed the most.  These are the activities which have the greatest potential to have a multiplier effect. More impact for same effort over the long run.  There are several tips to ensure your critical work gets done first.  Yet, our problem is that we often don’t accurately identify critical activities and decisions.  Our lizard brain keeps them hidden from view.  This article helps you identify those critical activities or decisions. The ones that can have significant consequences.

One of the reasons we struggle to identify these activities is that our brains are wired to be lazy and perform easy tasks.  Partly caused by our bodies adopting a mechanism from our caveman days of being thrifty with expending energy.  Our brain uses a lot of calories.  While it’s only about 2% of our body weight, its responsible for nearly 20% of our energy consumption.  Although mentally challenging activities use only marginally more calories, its enough for the brain to prefer simple tasks.  So, we procrastinate till we really need to do it.

The other reason is risk-aversion.  The fear that something bad might happen out of decisions and actions we take today.  So why risk it?  Inaction is easier than the consequences of action.  We try to postpone difficult activities.  Whether it’s a difficult conversation, an activity which could make a significant difference or a decision on which your company’ future hinges.  And assume that they will be easier in the future.  No ostrich ever evaded danger by putting his head in the sand.  It doesn’t work here either.

So, here are the 6 ways to identify whether an activity is critical

1. You lose sleep over it

If its something which sticks in your head, its likely its important.  Its likely, but not necessarily important.  As a thumb rule, if you find yourself mulling over something several times, it indicates that you need to do some thinking or take some action.  Its possible that you find that its not so critical after all.  In that case, you’ve at least removed it from your brain space.  One less thing to worry about!

2. It relates to your business growth

Anything with a potential positive or negative impact on your growth needs to be actioned now.  Whether it’s meeting a customer, incentivizing your sales team or fine-tuning your go-to-market strategy, you need to act now!  Action doesn’t necessarily mean completing the entire initiative at one go.  It’s taking that one step which brings you closer to completing the initiative.

3. It relates to customer or employee satisfaction

If it’s something which impacts customer or employee satisfaction, its important.  And needs to be dealt with appropriately.  There’s nothing better than keeping your eyes open to identify these activities.

4. It has lots of moving parts

Most important and critical activities seem daunting because they have lots of moving parts.  So, if the path seems difficult, it’s a good sign that its worth going down that path.  Anybody can do the easy stuff.  If you want to differentiate yourself, it’s the difficult things which need doing.  The temptation when a certain undertaking gets difficult, is to ignore it.  Or find easier things to do.  Don’t give in to that temptation.

5. Its unfamiliar

Things with which we are familiar are easy to do.  We know what to do and how to do it.  Yet, as Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”  If something seems unfamiliar, try doing it.  That said, keep checking on the utility of trying the unfamiliar.  All unfamiliar things are not necessarily good.  But when they are worthwhile, the returns you get are super-normal.

6. You feel incompetent to do it

A feeling of incompetence is good- it means future growth and learning.  All real growth is accompanied by a feeling of incompetence somewhere along the way.  So, if you’re not doing something because you feel incompetent, the best way to overcome it is by starting it.

Closing thoughts

Identifying critical activities is sometimes simply a matter of keeping your eyes open.  Don’t let your brain store away some critical activities in deep recesses.  And once identified, couple those activities with action and you’re on your way to a more focused and successful life.

Unrelated thought

For those who think that thinking hard can help them lose weight, think again!  Thinking hard burns up to 50 more calories per day.  So, you could probably add that sugar into your coffee with a little less guilt.  But not much more than that!

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