Defining important: does it make a difference?

The story so far…

If you’ve been working through this series of blog posts, you’ve scheduled some review time and you’ve considered your roles and responsibilities. I’ve already talked about differentiating between important roles and ‘nice but less important’ and we’ve looked at importance from the point of view of Gary Keller’s The One Thing. In this post I’m going to focus on importance – and how to work out what it means for you.

You can catch up on previous posts in this series here.

So what do I mean by ‘important’?

Let’s stop and think about that question for a moment. How do you know if a role or responsibility – or a specific aspect of it – is important or not? Is everything in your life equally important? Probably not, and why? Because we tend to have a set of core values that inspire us to act, and we tend to have a set number of people and circumstances that we care about. We can’t help it, that’s how we’re built. Therefore, some of the things you do in life are going to matter more than others. Here’s how to tell. You might already know. Fine. But if in doubt, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it chime with my values?
  2. Does it make a difference, to me or to someone I care about?
  3. Does it involve learning something new, that will help me grow?
  4. Does it impact negatively on time spent with people I love?
  5. Does it impact negatively on my health and well-being?
  6. Does it negate any projects or ambitions I hold dear?

Now, ideally for something to be categorised as ‘important’ you want to answer ‘yes’ to all of the first three. Your ideal answer to the last three questions is ‘no’, of course, but realistically, you can call it ‘important’ if 1) the negative impact is short term and 2) you can answer ‘yes but’. You may have to drill down into the specifics. For example, imagine someone who wants to have a second child. If she considers whether the role of ‘mum’ is important to her, she’d obviously say yes. She’s unlikely to need to go through the six questions. The specific aspect of the ‘role’ of mum that she wants to focus on is ‘having a second child’. Now that might get her a ‘yes but’ answer to question 6. In the short term, yes, she might have to put X project on hold. Is having a second child important enough for that to be ok in the short term? In other words, the questions are designed to get you to think.

What to do about it

During your review time, you’re going to go through your roles and responsibilities – or a specific aspect of them – and decide what you’re going to prioritise this year. You get to pick up to 9 of them. Use the questions above to think about which are the most important.


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