How to Approach Your “Next Action” List Like Playing Pick-up Sticks
If you ever played the game Pick-up Sticks, you know how simple yet challenging it can be. The objective is to pick up as many sticks as possible, one at a time, without disturbing any other sticks on top of the pile. The game may seem easy, but there’s a twist – the colored sticks have different values. Some sticks are worth more than all the others combined, and the strategy you use to pick them up matters a great deal.
Similarly, when it comes to achieving our goals, we often focus on completing low-value tasks instead of prioritizing the tasks with the greatest impact. Here are some tips on how to approach your “next action” list like playing Pick-up Sticks.
Identify the Blue and Black Sticks First
When my sons played Pick-up Sticks for the first time, they immediately went after the blue and black sticks, even though they were harder to pick up. The reason was simple – those sticks were worth more points than the other sticks combined.
In the same way, we should prioritize tasks that have the most significant impact on our goals. We often get caught up in completing low-impact tasks because they’re easier to do, and checking them off our list makes us feel productive. However, it’s important to recognize that the value of a task isn’t determined by its ease or the amount of time it takes to complete. Rather, it’s determined by the impact it has on our overall objectives.
Focus on Your Most Important Next Action
Just like the black and blue sticks in Pick-up Sticks, there are often tasks that have the most significant impact on our goals. However, we tend to put them off until later in favor of completing small, less important tasks.
Instead, try focusing on your most important next action, the one that will have the most significant impact on your goals. This might be a difficult task that you’ve been putting off or a critical step that will move your project forward. By completing this task first, you’ll increase your chances of reaching your desired outcome.
Avoid the Busy-Trap
When we have a long to-do list, it’s easy to fall into the trap of completing low-impact tasks to feel productive. This is known as the “busy-trap,” and it can prevent us from reaching our goals.
To avoid the busy-trap, identify your most important next action and focus on completing it first. If you find yourself getting caught up in low-impact tasks, remind yourself that completing one critical task is often more valuable than completing many small ones.
Don’t Neglect Your Commitments
While it’s essential to prioritize your most important next action, it’s also important not to neglect your commitments. There will always be tasks on your to-do list that you must complete, regardless of their impact on your goals.
So, don’t forget to “pick up” the yellow and red sticks on your to-do list when you’re in the right context to do so. Just remember that accomplishing your most important next action should always be the priority.
The game of Pick-up Sticks teaches us an important lesson about prioritizing tasks based on their impact. Just like the black and blue sticks in the game, there are often critical tasks that have the most significant impact on our goals. By identifying and completing these tasks first, we increase our chances of success. Don’t let the busy-trap or low-impact tasks distract you from achieving your goals. Remember, completing one critical task is often more valuable than completing many small ones. So, prioritize and focus on your most important next action.