Become Good at What Needs to be Done

“Don’t do what you are good at.
Become good at what needs to be done.”

How did you decide what you are going to do today?

Most people do what is on their calendar, do what they are told to do, do what they need to do to fix a crisis, do what is fun, do the project that is due today, or do what they are good at doing.

None of these are ideal. Instead, you should do what needs to be done. “But how is that different from the list you just gave us? All of those things need to be done?” you may ask. Because something is on your calendar, because that project is due today, and especially doing something because you are good at it; none of those reasons ensure that you are doing what really needs to be done.

“The skills and abilities that made you a success in the past are not the skills and abilities that will make you a success in the future”

This means that we must constantly review what we are doing and compare those to what really needs to be done. Here are a few tips for how to do this.

We tend to do what we do because it has worked for us in the past, because, as it turns out, we’re good at it. But that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that other things need to be done now. What matters now is that you need to get good at what needs to be done.

How do you figure out what really needs to be done?

1. Set aside the time. First, acknowledge that much of what you are already doing, maybe even most of what you are already doing, still needs to be done. But you need to allocate a certain amount of time to doing what really needs to be done; these new things will ultimately lead to greater success. Maybe this means you need to become more efficient at doing the old things, stop doing them, or delegate them.

2. Link your to-do list with your position description and/or your plan. Your to-do list should be a consequence of your position description and/or your company or departmental plan. More commonly, our to-do lists are the result of phone calls, emails and deadlines, but rarely does that method produce a list that actually supports what you are supposed to be doing or facilitates the attainment of goals and objectives. Look at the items on your position description and plan and ask yourself the question, what do I need to do today to ensure that this is addressed? The resulting list should be your to-do list.

3. Focus on productivity. Periodically, look at the items on your to-do list and ask yourself the question, what would happen if I didn’t do this? You might be surprised how many times the answer to that question is, “nothing.” Often they are routine tasks that we formulated a long time ago and we have just become used to doing them, or they are tasks assigned to you by others and the tasks have since become obsolete. Use these answers as a means to prioritize the tasks, setting the tasks with more significant outcomes as a higher priority.

4. Communicate. If you are unsure what your priorities should be even after the above exercises, ask your boss or ask your co-workers or subordinates what they think your priorities should be. Once you have determined what you are going to do, make sure that other people that will be affected know what you are working on, and what you are not working on.

5. Gain the necessary skills. If your new to-do list contains items that you are uncomfortable with, or are not good at, work hard to gain the skills and disciplines you need to successfully tackle them. Ask for help. Consider it a challenge, an opportunity to learn something new and a way to become more valuable to your organization!