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Low Hanging Fruit & What’s Easiest First

In the absence of metrics, most people fall back on what is easiest.” – Cal Newport

Have you ever been there? It’s the start of the workday and while you have so many things to accomplish, you have no idea of where to begin. Mostly out of habit, you open your email inbox to catch up on anything that rolled in since you ended the day before. The requests, questions, tasks, and needs of others immediately arise and your already full workday just became incredibly more full.

You begin to work your way through your inbox, engaging ninja skills to get that number of unread emails to the glorious “inbox zero” that we hold at such a high standard in our minds. Half your workday is gone, but hey, look at that beautiful email inbox! You turn your attention to some bigger matters at hand and after about 10 to 15 minutes of diving into deeper thought, your phone rings or you’re alerted to a Slack message. Solving the urgent seems more pressing than this deep thought time, and hey! You can always go back to that after these requests are answered. They’re urgent after all.

You get to the end of the workday, exhausted from the constant communicating, answering and solving of demands and yet most of those creative thinking projects have been left untouched. The metric of number of answered emails or quantity of requests fulfilled won the workday, while the importance of big forward thinking lost out.

Your workday results can be categorized as such: low-hanging fruit.

There is great risk in going after what is easiest first. There will always be another email, another tedious task, another Slack message to respond to. The constant bouncing from one communication channel to the next can shockingly eat up a majority of the workday, without ever truly diving into the projects that have the greatest opportunity to create impact and showcase your unique strengths.

In Seth Godin’s Linchpin, we learn about the “lizard brain” and the temptation to be sucked into the menial tasks that can be rapidly “checked off” the to-do list. This gives us a false sense of accomplishment and productivity. While at the end of the day you may have a list of tasks completed to boast about, at the end of a year, you will still only have emails, phone calls, and bookings to share.

It is often easiest for us and our teams to go after the low-hanging fruit. It doesn’t take much time to consider what task to do next, it invites constant interruptions and we are (usually) consistently stimulated. While living and working in the space for a short amount of time is not super detrimental, it is severely hindering our ability to develop our teams as leaders in their field or industry. Without challenging them to think about what could be done better, more efficiently or digging into a brand new concept, we are aiding the present economy in generating “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” robots who work by a task list rather than the brain within their heads.

It is tempting to do what is easiest first. But we must fight the urge to use our energy to grab the low-hanging fruit so that we may climb to higher heights and reap the fruit at the very top.


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