7 Ways to Identify your Most Important Task
It’s one of the most consistent and repeatedly given productivity advice here on Medium: start your day with your most important task (MIT). It’s easy to know why: If you get your MIT done first thing in the morning, you’ve already won the day, no matter what comes later. But if you start your day unfocused, you are a lot less likely to get your important task done at all.
Sounds simple, right?
It is — if you actually know what that MIT is.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
— Peter Drucker
So here is 7 ways to actually know what your MIT is so you can be sure you are doing the right things and not just doing it the right way.
1. It’s the task you write down the night before.
Or after your morning meditation. In any case, you wrote it down in a clear mental state having the whole picture in mind instead of being lost in details or influenced by external triggers (see 2).
2. It’s usually NOT whatever lures in your inbox.
Or is externally incoming in any other way (your boss stopping by with that “urgent” task, a client calling with some last minute changes). Whereas MITs are tasks you choose proactively according to your goals (see 4), everything incoming is usually not important in the grand scheme of things. If your job is mostly about getting urgent, incoming tasks done, wake up early to work on your own goals or get that important project done before the urgent tasks roll in. Which leads us to the next point.
3. It’s usually NOT what is most urgent.
It’s important to make a clear distinction between urgent and important activities. Urgent tasks need your immediate attention with clear consequences if you don’t deal with them. Also, they are most likely associated with achieving someone else’s goals. Important tasks on the other hand are associated with YOUR OWN goals (see 4). Again, if your job is mostly about dealing with urgent tasks, structure your day in a way that lets you achieve important tasks first.
4. It’s the task that is related to your GOALS
Whether it’s a personal goal (loose weight, run that marathon, find a new apartment) or a professional goal (start a blog, get that promotion, change careers), a task is only important if it is related to your goals.
5. From all your goal-related To-Dos, it’s the one with the MOST IMPACT on your goal
Your To-Do list is full of goal-related tasks? Great! Rate your tasks according to the impact they have on achieving your goal. Your MIT is the one with the highest (potential) impact.
6. It’s the task that makes other things on your To-Do list OBSOLETE, FASTER or EASIER
This one takes some practice, as it usually requires coming up with a MIT that is not already on your list. Screen your task list for long, inefficient and tedious tasks and think of a way to eliminate them, make them faster or easier. Here is an easy example: You are a business owner spending 5hrs a day replying to customer service emails. Investing time in hiring a good customer service rep will free up 5hrs of your day in the long-run. The irony though is that you might feel that you don’t have time for hiring…don’t fall into this urgent vs. important trap (see 3).
7. If you are a still in doubt about your MIT, pick the task that makes you the most UNCOMFORTABLE
It makes you anxious. You are dreading it. You feel overwhelmed. Which is why you have probably put it off for a few days already. If you are still in doubt about your MIT, then that’s the one ;)