Identifying your Major and Minor Work is critical if you want get focussed On The Important.

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Most people go through their lives majoring in minor things, never identifying what it is that is important to them. And those who do identify their own major and minor things, often find themselves majoring in the wrong things.

Take for example a salesperson. What is their major work? Is it planning the sales call? Is it studying the market? Learning more about the product they sell? No. It is none of these. They may be important, but they are minor things. The major work is the time spent in front of the customer.

I work with a lot of clients who insist their sales team come into the office once a week to talk with their sales managers and to have meetings with product managers and for training. That’s twenty percent of their working week spent in meetings and training that serve the administrators and helps HR tick boxes but does nothing for the customer. It’s important, of course, but it’s minor time.

No matter what you do, there are always things that matter and things that do not matter. The problem is the things that matter are often a lot harder than the things that do not matter, so it is more attractive to spend most of your time doing things that do not matter and feeling proud of how busy you are, yet you are not doing anything of real value. You are majoring in minor things.

One of the most productive things you can do is to take some time and work out exactly what things you do that have the biggest impact on what you are trying to achieve. A simple example would be if you were training to run a marathon in October. Sitting down and making a training plan is minor work. Going out for a ten to twenty-kilometre run would be major work. It has the biggest impact on your overall goal. Another would be if you were speaking at an international conference, deciding when you would fly to the conference and which hotel you will stay in would be minor work. Preparing and developing your presentation would be major time.

Minor work is important, a lot of the major work cannot be done without the minor work, but the issue is how much time are you spending on the minor work and how much time are you spending doing the major work?

it can be difficult to work out what your major and minor tasks are but the effort and time you spend doing them will give you a better chance of being successful at whatever it is you want to accomplish but you do have to work out what those tasks are.

As a teacher, I know where my major and minor work is. Being in front of students and guiding them towards better performance is major work. It is my whole purpose. I try to spend most of my time working on tasks that will help my students perform better. Minor tasks are completing attendance records and dealing with administration. It does nothing to help the students and it does nothing to make me a better teacher.

Major work for me is spent writing and creating content. It is that content that helps people to learn how to become better at communicating or with time management and productivity. Major work is answering student questions. I am very clear about what my major work is and my major work is my priority. Minor work does creep in from time to time, but because I am fully aware of what is major and what is minor, I know when this happens and can adjust my to-do list. An example of this is the end of the month when many of my client companies ask me to provide an attendance record or an evaluation. Evaluations are useful for my students, but not for the company as these are generally used for employee records and not used to help the student become a better communicator or better at time management. I do these tasks, but they are always lower priorities to what really matters, and that is helping my students.

And this is something you have to figure out. What tasks have the biggest impact on what you do? What one task could you spend time on today that would have the most value on what it is you are trying to accomplish? These are the questions you should ask yourself as part of your Golden 10 evening routine — the ten minutes at the end of every day when you plan the next day. When you get into the habit of identifying your major tasks, you spend the majority of your time on those tasks and you find your productivity skyrockets on the things that are important and this will give you a huge advantage over the 95% of people who never do anything to identify what their major work is.

Are you guilty of majoring in minor things?

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I got to try out the myth of multi-tasking last Sunday and I can confirm that multi-tasking does not work.

Let me explain. I have a regular Sunday morning routine. I use Sunday mornings to do my admin, and to prepare Materials for the coming week. I know exactly how long it takes me to complete my Sunday morning routine tasks - it takes roughly 1 hour 20 minutes. This morning, my wife called me while I was in the middle of my Sunday routine, and asked me to find a file on her computer and email it to her. Foolishly, I decided to do both the file finding and editing of a document I was going to send to my clients at the same time. I ended up taking 2 hours to complete my usual routine tasks.

It did take a little while to find my wife's file, But not too long, maybe 10 to 15 minutes. But because I was trying to do two tasks at once, I didn't notice that it always took me about 5 to 10 minutes to get back into the zone I was in before. It was this that caused me to spend more time on my tasks that I needed to.

The thing about multitasking is that people think they can do it. And perhaps they can do a limited amount of multitasking. But, And this is a big but, it is not that you are doing two tasks at once that causes the delay, it is the fact that you are actually task switching which means that you need to spend on average 5 or 10 minutes refocusing on each task. This is highly inefficient.

What you need to do is to prioritise which task is more important than the other. What I should have done is stopped doing my routine tasks and focused 100% on finding the file for my wife. But the opportunity to do this experiment was too good to miss. The result really did surprise me, I expected to have an additional 10 minutes or so on my routine tasks, I was not expecting a 10 minute task to cause me to spend nearly 2 hours on some routine tasks that usually take about 90 minutes max.

So the moral of this story is never never never multitask. If you want to be more efficient, more productive and get more things done in less time then you need to focus on one task at a time. If necessary learn to explain to your co-workers that you need to finish the task you're working on at the moment before doing the task they want you to do. Alternatively completely stop doing the task you're working and start working on the new task with complete focus.

Focusing on one piece of work at a time will give you huge positive results in your productivity.