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Stefan Kazakis on 9 December 2017

Last week I asked you if you were thriving or just surviving.  This week we are going to explore how thriving tasks push us forward and allow us to look beyond what has just landed on our desk.

Thriving tasks allow us to duplicate and triplicate good outcomes. In business (and in life), 80% of success is based on thriving tasks and only 20% is based on surviving tasks. So why do people so often gravitate towards survival tasks?

This is a basic human instinct that we are all hardwired for. It’s our default position. We are programmed to respond to what’s right in front of us because it seems immediate and urgent.

Sometimes it is, but very often it’s not – it just seems that way because it’s right in front of us.

Overcoming this natural instinct is hard work, and that’s why only the top 1% of businesses and teams achieve this end. To overcome this, you must realise that productivity isn’t a 9 to 5 task. When I looked at my calendar this morning it didn’t say 9 am to 10 am – be productive. It’s a mindset.

It should filter into everything you do. It’s about the work that you do that moves you forward and creates value. It’s the work that confirms you are the solution to somebody else’s problem. No ifs and buts. It’s clear and I’m moving this forward. I’m thriving and not just surviving. It’s about doing the ‘one percenters’ that you know most of your competitors aren’t doing. It takes just as long to do something right as to do it wrong, so do it right the first time. Create value every step of the way and be deep and deliberate about your execution.

When you beat the mountain in front of you, you know what’s on the other side, right? There’s another mountain! Yes, it is an ongoing process. Long-term, sustainable success comes from recognising that the job is never done. There’s always another mountain to climb. The minute you stop moving forward you begin going backward.

So, how do you focus on thriving tasks? Let’s see how you can get yourself into a thriving mindset:

  • Thrive tasks don’t have the apparent urgency, but you must make time to do the important but not urgent. Ask yourself, what would happen if this was what I had to work on today?
  • When we do these thrive activities they produce significant results for a lifetime. The alternative tasks produce results just for today. When you reflect on your life there will be some key milestones. These are the thrive tasks that you worked on in your career or life. That’s what worked. That’s the breakthrough.
  • By definition, you cannot delegate thrive tasks. They are the tasks that only you can do to take the business to the next level. For example, only you can get your MBA – you can’t delegate that. If it’s a task that you can delegate, then it’s not you working at your highest level. If you can delegate something that is usually a good sign that you should.
  • You must always work at sticking to your plan, but don’t be so stubborn that you refuse to do things that really need to be done. For example, if you are running a seminar and you arrive early and the room isn’t ready, it’s not very helpful to sit back and say, ‘Hey, I’m too important to set up chairs and put out paper and pens’. Determination to stick to the plan is necessary, but so is flexibility.
  • You must accept that sometimes thrive tasks aren’t popular in the short term. People who have a pattern of spending all day putting out fires (many of which they themselves created) won’t understand why you are spending time working on things that will help tomorrow and not today.
  • No matter what you do, there will always be some survive tasks. Nobody can organise their business or life so well that they are never surprised by anything. The key to success is to have a well-thought-out plan that gives you a guide when these surprises do arise, so they are dealt with quickly and efficiently and you can get back on track. Most people have more survive tasks than thrive tasks in their lives. The key is to reverse that balance. Imagine the success you would achieve if you spent 80% of your time on thrive tasks and only 20% on survive tasks.

People often don’t understand the consequences of not completing thrive tasks because they are not staring them in the face. So, what is the biggest cost? Will you lose a big client tomorrow? No.

Will an order go missing? No. But here’s what you will miss out on: opportunity. Have a think about the book you are reading right now. I spent many hours and days over many months working on this. I would regularly meet with my editor on a Monday morning. Did these meetings put money in the bank on Tuesday? I can assure you they did not. The payoff for these meetings and this time and effort comes later in the form of increased opportunities. Sometimes a thrive task might not pay off for weeks, months or – sometimes – even years. That’s why people have trouble completing them, and that’s why people stay in mediocrity.

Don’t wait for the perfect time, because there is no perfect time. There will always be too many survive tasks around you until you start working with clarity on your thrive tasks. Working on thrive tasks today will help to reduce dramatically the survive tasks tomorrow. In an exact reversal of the survive mindset, a thrive mindset builds a positive environment. People see the runs on the board and the outcomes of their efforts. Rather than saying, ‘Hey, I stopped the wheels from falling off today’, your team will be making a positive contribution to the business and their own careers. And this becomes a positive cycle that only leads to more thriving.

As a bonus, when you are in thrive mode the survive tasks are easier to deal with. Firstly, there will be fewer of them, because your long-term strategic planning will mean you are moving forward with focus and clarity, which will cut down on the pattern of spending way too much time dealing with yesterday’s problems today. And when a survival task does blindside you, you have the systems and strategies in place to deal with it effectively, rather than dropping everything and running around as if your hair is on fire.

Power to you.

Stefan

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