The new year is approaching, and that means a fresh start.
Want a simple tip that will help you make this year your best year of work, ever?
Use every morning to focus on your Most Important Task (MIT).
Your MIT isn’t your easiest task, or the one you’ll enjoy the most. It’s not even the task that’s most pressing.
Your MIT is your most important task–it’s the thing that will provide you (or those you work for) the most value. Author Kevin Kruse describes this well in his book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management:
“The key to your productivity all comes down to understanding what is most important to you–and what activity will provide the greatest leverage to getting there–right now,” says Kruse.
Here’s how it works:
First, take a few minutes to think about what’s most important to you and your work. (I personally like to reevaluate my MIT every morning.) During this time, it helps to zoom out a bit and look at the big picture. For example, right now my MIT is to finish my book. So today, that was the focus of my work–even before penning this article.
Now, I can’t tell you what your MIT is, but I can tell you what it isn’t.
In most situations, your MIT is not:
- Reading or responding to email
- Checking or posting anything to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (unless your job is social media manager)
- Making phone calls
- Attending a meeting
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do these things. Some of these tasks are necessary, if not important. And if you want to begin your day by checking email or social media, go for it.
But make sure you set a time limit, and stick to it–because these things shouldn’t be the focus of your morning. If they are, you’re wasting the most productive hours a day on tasks that aren’t as valuable as your MIT.
Once you’re an hour or so into your workday, you should definitely be working on your most important task–and that should be your focus until you break for lunch.
When you return, much will depend on your personal work and schedule. Maybe you’ll return to your MIT, and that’s great. Or maybe now is the time for reading and responding to email, or attending meetings, or anything else you need to do (or even want to do).
The key is you’ll already have spent a large chunk of your day working on what’s most important. Not only does this type of focus give you a great sense of satisfaction at the end of every day, it ensures that you’re gradually working to accomplish something great.
Think of your most important tasks as large stones that you need to fit into a jar. Those smaller tasks, which we can often knock out relatively quickly, are like small grains of sand.
If you fill the jar up with sand first, the rocks will no longer fit. But if you place the rocks in the jar first, the sand easily falls into place–filling all the empty space between the rocks. Now you’ve accomplished everything, but you’ve given priority to the things that count most.
So, this year, focus on your MIT.
And get ready to do the best work of your life.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.