The purpose of this ‘domino effect’ blog is to offer a general challenge: To focus on the key activity in any ‘moment in time’, which will afford success the biggest chance of being the natural outcome of the work put in. Then to be able to strip away all distractions so that focus on this key task can take place.
I have named this key activity the primary task.
The challenge is to identify what is the one thing of all the things I could do that does indeed represent the primary task. The one that affords success being the natural out put of the work put in. After all hard work is just that; hard work. It is the application of the hard work to the primary task that is the critical factor. The problem with traditional goal setting is linking a long-term goal to a primary task in the ‘now’.
This is where the domino effect comes in.
In 1983, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that he’d discovered how a single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50% larger. So how does this play into planning long-term goals? Starting with the end in mind, write on the end domino your long-term goal. Then work backwards writing on corresponding dominos the subordinate goals or milestones needed to be achieved to knock the domino in front over. Do this until you get to the one thing you need to focus on ‘now’, i.e. the domino in front of you. You now have a line of dominos set up metaphorically which represent the connection between your long-term goals and action to the primary task today. So that by knocking over the first domino a chain reaction will start. Therefore all our energy should go towards knocking over the first domino-the primary task.
This presents another challenge. In business life today we are pulled apart by competing priorities. However, the obvious and harsh reality is success, (at work and in life in general) is about achieving long term goals (the end domino), not being busy and/or pleasing everybody en-route. The key is to learn how to politely and gracefully say no to requests on your time that don’t add value to the primary task. Make this your priority and stick to it.
‘Time Blocking’ and ‘Deep Work’ are terms codified respectively by Gary Keller in the book, The One Thing and Carl Newport in his book, of the same name (Deep Work) that represent tools that enable the focus on the primary task.
From these two sources I have a number of radical suggestions:
The afternoon is for every thing else:
Email, conference calls, meetings, anything that does not add value to your primary task.
The importance of allocating time blocking for the primary task to the morning is that this is where levels of will power and energy are at there highest.
As you knock a domino over your primary task could and probably will change. For each primary task adopt an ethos of mastery to it. Challenge yourself to build the skills and knowledge needed to execute your primary task to a level of mastery.
You might feel that the culture and operational pressure from your own organisation, (Manager, subordinates and peers), would not allow you to adopt this way of working. However, I would contend that by briefing them and getting buy-in to what you are trying to achieve people will by and large understand respect and support you. Another option is incrementally build this into your modus operand increasing the about of time blocking you commit to over several weeks. It will be the case that by focusing on the primary task other aspects of your life will feel at least a little bit more chaotic …lean into this!
To quote Stephen Covey ‘Don’t let the important be a victim of the urgent’ and from Robin Sharma, ‘If you don’t act on life, life will act on you’.
Adopting the principles from the ‘domino effect’ allows this to happen i.e. acting on life rather than it acting on you.