As you go through your life, you may ponder a simple question…
Am I making a difference?
I want to make a difference. I truly do. Yet, looking at the stuff in my garage, the entries in my calendar, and the log in my checkbook, I realize my intentions are good, yet the execution is not always what I want it to be. So much of my time and resources are wasted on trivial items.
I’ve found that there are three questions I need to ask when scheduling and taking on new tasks or projects.
1. Does This Match My Purpose?
Having a purpose and vision in life can help direct all your actions. It’s a good idea to clarify your purpose and vision and express them as simply as possible. Having a lofty mission statement, multiple sentences long, will just confuse you. Simplicity is the key. There are many books and workshops that can help you create purpose and vision statements.
Here are three that have been helpful for me…
- The Story of Purpose by Joey Reiman
- One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo
- The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst
Once you have your statements created, by simply asking the question, ‘Does this align with my purpose and vision?’ will allow you to move forward or reassess.
2. Is This Essential?
I’m a big fan of Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism. In the book, Greg asks a simple question. Is this essential? If not, he suggests that you say NO to it. Focusing on priority items is very important. Greg implies…
Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.
However, saying no, especially to yourself, can be very hard to do at times. Our minds tend to be attracted to shiny new things. Especially for creatives. I have suffered from the shiny object syndrome for years, especially with technology. The need to have the latest gadget, operating system, or upgrade is really hard to ignore. Just look at the lines outside of an Apple store after the release of a new product.
Greg offers some insights…
The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.
I’ve found that asking three questions can help me clarify my answers
- Is This an Impulse? Giving myself at least 24 hours to think about decisions helps cancel out impulsive choices.
- Is This Truly Necessary? Is this a want or a need? Needs should take primary focus. Wants are secondary.
- Is this the BEST option? Many times I’ve found myself settling for less that optimal outcomes. Holding out for best takes patience and fortitude at times, but is usually worth it in the long run.
Working on essential items and putting aside the rest will help us reach success faster. Saying no is not always easy, but it can be the difference between success and failure.
3. Is This Making an Impact?
This is where you measure the results of your actions. Simply, is the product you are buying, or the time you are spending making an impact?
There are three type of results…
- Positive Impact
- Negative Impact
- No Impact
There are also three areas of impact.
- Personal Impact: This affects you
- Group Impact: This affects other people
- World Impact: This has a global implications
The ideal answer is a positive impact that affects all areas. You can also move forward if the answer is just one area of impact and it doesn’t negatively affect any one of them. Many times you can multiply the impact with a few modifications…
Here is an example… You can go out for a run by yourself. This has a positive effect on your health. If you take a friend along, now you have doubled the positive effect and added group impact. If you both run to the store instead of taking a car, you have the added benefit of saving gasoline, and reducing pollution from using your car. .. a world benefit. As you can see, with a few simple mods you can greatly increase the impact of your actions.
Measuring impact can help you fine tune your actions for better results.