I want you to think about the following question, because it can mean the difference between just getting through the day at work, and doing the best work of your life:
What’s the most important thing you can get done today?
It’s called: Ruthless prioritization.
“I think the most important thing we’ve learned as we’ve grown is that we have to prioritize,” says Sandberg. “We talk about it as ruthless prioritization. And by that what we mean is only do the very best of the ideas. Lots of times you have very good ideas. But they’re not as good as the most important thing you could be doing. And you have to make the hard choices.”
Why Ruthless Prioritization Is the Key to Great Work
If you’re anything like me, you like to make lists: idea lists, task lists, lists of people I need to talk to.
The sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing an item off these lists just feels so great.
The problem, though, is it’s easy to get distracted by lists. In a world that glorifies production, we often tend to focus on getting as much done as we can.
But are those the things we should be doing? Will they provide the greatest return on our most important investment—our time?
According to Sandberg, ruthless prioritization doesn’t mean getting all 10 things on your list done. It means figuring out which five you can do really well, and then following through.
“It’s a hard lesson for us because we’re always trying to do more,” she says. “But it’s one we’ve really tried to stick to as we’ve grown.”
If you’re prioritizing for yourself (as opposed to a team), even five things can be too many.
How come? Because you can really only focus on one thing at a time—at least, if you want to reach maximum quality. If you always start with the easiest or most convenient ideas in an effort to get everything done, you’ll end up pushing the best ideas down the list. And that means you’re not going to give them the time or energy they deserve.
It can be difficult to completely let go of a good idea, but remember: to do something great requires sacrifice. It’s the great ideas that will make the biggest difference. The great ideas will lead to you becoming the best version of yourself.
So, quit wasting your time on the mediocre, or even just the “good.”
Instead, engage in some ruthless prioritization, and focus on the great.
And get ready to crush it.
This article was originally published on Inc. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of Sheryl Sandberg courtesy of Slaven Vlasic/Stringer/Getty Images.