When “small things” get in the way

Recently a friend of mine said “So many small things seem to get in the way of momentum these days.”

Dealing effectively with “small things” is first a matter of understanding your priorities. What’s really important or strategic to you? “Strategic“ is one of my favourite words. My nature is to plan. I prefer to carefully guide my life by strategies that meet the goals that are important to me. Blah stuff! Words like plan, strategy, goals, important, but that’s me.

“Strategic” and “important” are similar and related, but not identical. “Important” derives it’s significance from your strategy. Merriam Webster distinguishes the two:

strategic: a careful plan or method devised or employed toward a goal

important: marked by or indicative of significant worth or consequence

Goals come first. You achieve them by devising and then implementing a strategy. Activities that make your strategy a success are meaningful and therefore worthwhile and important. That’s why my first rule is “Set Goals“.

All other activities are a waste of time and energy. They are inconsequential, insignificant and unimportant relative to your goals. That’s why my fourth rule is “Put first things first“. Focus on what matters most, until you are tired and have to rest.

But it’s a challenge because distractions occur and worry sets in as you wonder how to deal with them. By definition distract means to divert, to turn aside. Don‘t let distractions put you off course by confusing you with conflicting emotions or motives. Instead, divert the distraction. Let’s develop a simple table of how to react to distractions.

When a “small thing” competes for your attention you have to compare its strategic nature and the risk associated with its supposed urgency. There are four factors to consider: is it strategic or not and is it urgent or not. Organize these factors into a “significance” table, beginning with strategic. Here’s my suggestion for the best way to react to each of the four possible combinations.

Urgent  Not Urgent 
Strategic  Do it now!  Schedule a time and do it before it becomes urgent. 
Not Strategic  Delegate it.  Leave it! 


These approaches are usually realistic and appropriate. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine who to delegate to. How about the originator of the “small thing”, whoever benefits most from it, or whoever is most impacted by it?

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One Response to When “small things” get in the way

  1. patripotts says:

    Yes, you are right. Many of the “worry” ideas are similar. I like your column format too. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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