The Important Few

Being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action…Being selective - doing less - is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.

Tim Ferriss, 4-Hour Workweek

There is a difference between being busy & being productive.

Being busy requires only motion. Being productive, on the other hand, requires directed motion.

An example:

You’re in the gym during the noon class, but aren’t coaching. Let’s say you have five options for what you could do with your time. You could:

1) Respond to the emails that have been piling up

2) Take out your phone & add some fresh content to your IG Stories

3) Observe the class, writing down feedback for your coach

4) Take the class alongside your members

5) Scroll through your social media while you eat lunch

Each of these options has some value. The emails need to get answered, you haven’t worked out yet, you’re hungry, etc.

If you’re focused only on being busy, you might think getting as much of the list checked off during the hour is best: You could keep one eye on your coach while adding some video to IG Stories, then jump on the computer to bang out some emails while you eat your Cobb salad.

If you’re focused on being productive, though, you might think about your options differently. That’s because aiming to be productive forces you to answer this question: What’s the most important thing I can do right now?

Not the most urgent thing. Not the easiest thing. The most important.

The paradox of productivity is that it requires - it demands - periods of inactivity. It demands that we fight our natural inclination for motion so we can create the mental space necessary to distinguish between what author Greg McKeown calls the essential few from the trivial many. Aiming for productivity demands that we point our limited energies toward those few things that actually matter.

You won’t get as much of your to-do list checked off by sitting down, observing your coach, & taking the ten minutes necessary after class to give her some feedback. But the email can get answered later, & you can eat lunch during off hours. Unlike your Instagram Stories, the value of getting your coach just a little bit better isn’t going to disappear after 24 hours.

Patrick Cummings