If you live in the modern, technologically connected world, you already know there's too much stuff to do. People with aspirations of excellence often find that personal life interferes with pursuits of passion. Kids, family, bills, endless electronic jabbering: there's too much to keep track of without placing powerful filters to block out the noise. But the problem with broad-spectrum filters is that they block out positive signals as well as negative signals. Filters can be pernicious. That's why I regard one particular technique as an unusually effective way to accomplish big things. It's simple to say, if perhaps not always simple to do: if you can get something done right now don't wait to do it later.
Committing to write a novel does not fall into this category. Making a movie does not fall into this category. Remodeling the kitchen does not fall into this category. But taking two minutes to transfer a file to somebody across town who will have eight hours to work with that file DOES fall into this category. A moment of procrastination on your part can catastrophically cascade and make ordinarily challenging projects unnecessarily hard, or worse, mediocre in their result. Completing a five-minute, tedious phone call you've been avoiding will simply remove its burden from your back. Organizing yourself to assign tasks to trusted team members, getting the next in an endlessly nagging stream of documents out the door, or just taking out the recycling so it doesn't pile up in the corner keeps your to-do list from growing so large as to be unmanageable. Get something done... and it's done.
Now, here's the secret. All of this dogged diligence is not about establishing metrics for yourself about the vast amount of work you can complete in a given period of time. Work for its own sake simply hauls bricks from place to place with no great value in the counting. But show me somebody who's hauling bricks to build a house and now I'm interested. The secret is that the completion of mundane tasks right now, this instant, so that they're gone until the next mundane and task…is all in an effort to compartmentalize bigger blocks of time for far more important, far more interesting, much more relevant creative work. Don't sweat the small stuff: dispense with the small stuff. But ignore the small stuff at your own peril. These little tasks are a tight rope between the safety platforms of "The Before" and "The After", where the first represents the moment before you enjoin a giant project and the second is that moment of its satisfying completion. The tight rope––that viciously thin line barely connecting the two––is irrelevant compared to the stony stalwarts on either side of the chasm. But it's also the lifeline. One misstep and you fall to your doom. Nonetheless, that line itself is an aesthetic irrelevancy. The tight rope itself is made entirely of a million tiny threads -- all small stuff-- but it's the overall collection of small stuff that gets you across the void.
So don't let the dishes pile up in the lunch room table; get them into the sink. Better yet, get them washed. Pay your phone bill today, get your equipment room organized, make sure you've successfully crossed some of the little stuff off your list. Because the rest of the day awaits you, and there are big things to do.