How to Focus on What Truly Matters

Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for entrepreneurs, and its true for managers, and its true for individual employees. The question then is what not to do. I’m sure you have heard the expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Easy to say but the problem is that most people have no idea what the small stuff is. To really effect positive change in our lives, we need to reorganize the way we spend our time; based on the concept of importance – not urgency. The issue is trying to decide what is important, trying to decide what is material, trying to decide what truly matters.


For most people, productivity is a problem because they are continually doing the urgent stuff, at the expense of the important. Unfortunately it is very easy to understand what is urgent. It is often much more complex to understand what is important. In order to understand that concept a little better, I want to introduce the concept of Materiality.

Quality, Cost and Speed

One job of any entrepreneur or any company CEO is to ensure that there is enough enough difference between the company and its competitors so that there is a reason to buy from one and not the other. This concept of competitive differentiation is very important. And the only three dimensions on which you can compete are Quality, Cost and Speed. That may seem overly simple but when you come down to it, that’s all there is to differentiation. Now I admit, there are many facets to quality but for our purposes, understanding just this is enough.

Quality versus Speed

So what is an employee to do? Concentrate on cost, drive higher levels of quality or ensure a speedy delivery? Let’s take it as a given today that cost is always now something that employees should strive to reduce. This is true in corporations where cost is a tangible method of differentiation as well as in government and charities. Because of this accent on costs, it is one variable that really can never be left out of the mix. If it is true that you can have only two of the three, Quality, Cost, and Speed and we have determined that you must have low costs at all times then there is a remaining conflict between Quality and Speed.

Focus on What Matters

The first thing you need to do for your organization, your department and for your job is to understand what your priorities are. Are you trying to have the highest quality product on the market in which case the cost of it and the speed of delivery won’t matter much? The decision as to this priority should guide the decisions you will make on your job, as you will inevitably favor doing something more slowly to ensure higher quality. In the end. individual productivity comes down to focusing on what is material, on what matters and ignoring the rest.

More on How to Focus

Now some people like reading things instead of watching videos and so I’ve written up a short summary of what we were trying to get at in these videos. Check it out if you want a bit more depth on the subject.