Words: Corey Adams
Imagine you’re sitting at your desk, running through messages, emails, and daily notes. Everything seems to be normal, a few small fires to put out, a couple bids due, nothing out of the ordinary. All of a sudden, BAM, your worst-case scenario happens. What is that? How bad is it really? Is it really the worst?
My worst-case scenario might seem a bit morbid to some, but it helps me put smaller issues in perspective. My worst-case scenario is hearing of a death in my immediate family. Wife, child, parent, etc. It is not as off-topic as you would think. At the end of the day, no matter what happens in the business, as long as I go home to a healthy family, the day is a success.
Most people, when asked about their worst-case scenario, power straight down the tracks to tunnel vision and focus on the business’s worst case, not the real worst case. I get it; I am not trying to get everyone to question the fragility of life itself; I am just wanting to inject some perspective on what a real worst-case looks like.
I tend to ask myself this question quite frequently. Why? Well, it started over 10 years ago in a time management seminar I was attending. You see, I struggled like most to budget my time wisely for the most important tasks at hand. I would procrastinate the more difficult and often more important and gravitate towards the easy-to-achieve tasks, which by nature are very unimportant. It was in this seminar that the term downside risk finally broke through my thick skull and allowed me to really prioritize what matters, especially in daily business life.
Basically, I ask myself, “What happens if I do nothing?” I do this for most of my tasks. At first, I would have to ask out loud, but after some practice, I have developed a subconscious mechanism that addresses all incoming tasks in this way. What if I do nothing? Will the problem disappear, get worse, stay the same, or will anyone notice?
You find very quickly that many of the tasks we choose to complete on a day-to-day basis have no downside risk if they just stop getting done? Often, we find ourselves doing tasks out of routine, not necessity. Those are the tasks that take up your time, with no real value added to your business.
About 5 years into my newfound love of ignoring tasks that had no immediate value or downside risk, I had a chance encounter that added another layer to how I prioritize my day.
In a discussion that started out harmless enough, the conversation shifted to what we had to do tomorrow, that week, and so on. Then the guy on the other end of the phone blew my mind. I wasn’t expecting it but thank God I was listening. He laid out a strategy that I had not even previously considered. Prioritizing by risk and difficulty.
The theory was simple. We all do better work early in the morning when we have just woken up and feel refreshed. He stated that he didn’t spend his entire morning picking off easy tasks so he could “get going” or “clean up the list.” He instead picked the hardest task with the highest priority first. This way, he could use his fresh morning energy to attack something that added real value to his day. Subsequently, by completing a hard task, he said the rest of the day felt easy knowing that his hardest task of the day was behind him.
I know we started this article with a morbid discussion, and I apologize. What it was meant to do was anchor in an extreme worst-case scenario so that we could open up a dialogue on business tasks and how much some of them don’t matter.
Open your mind to what happens if you don’t complete a task, then have the fortitude to not do it. If it backfires, then the task is important. If it goes unnoticed, then you just freed up some more of your valuable time.
As long as no one is going to kill me, my wife, or my kids, I can deal with some hiccups and growing pains to create the most efficient and profitable business possible.