THE 21st Century Imperative

Why do some people earn more than others? Complicated question. While some of the answer is pure irrationality (attractive people tend to get paid more than their less attractive colleagues), a major part of the answer is that the highly-paid workers get more high-value work done. The world is changing, and we are no longer going to be paid for loyalty and promoted by seniority. Hell, in a lot of sectors of the economy, even having a steady job is going to be rare. Whether you are inside an organization or on the outside as a consultant or entrepreneur, your success is going to depend on how much high-value work you do. There are two components to this: 1> doing things efficiently and 2> doing things that matter.

We tend to focus first on doing things efficiently, and this is extremely important. The most productive workers have methods, tools, and routines that allow them to get things done more efficiently. Perhaps they start early and leave time for re-work, perhaps they plan better, perhaps they create systems that let them make best use of their mental, emotional and physical energy. There are many systems you can use, such as Getting Things Done by David Allen or Steven Covey’s 7 Habits or the Urgent  / Important Matrix or the Pomodoro Technique. The important thing is to find the right system for you. There is no one best way, but if you work at it and play with it, there are always better and better ways for you to get more done, and this is important.

Even more important than getting a lot done is getting the right things done. Your efficiency doesn’t matter if you spend most of your time on low-value tasks. One problem I see is that lots of people get wrapped up in “working hard,” this is even a point of pride for some, but the bottom line is that if you are working hard at low-value tasks, you are still not creating much value, and you will probably be compensated accordingly. Most office workers have over 150 of hours of work waiting for them right now. Before they finish that, more will be added. YOU WILL NEVER FINISH! The trick is to accept that painful fact, decide what actions get the best results, and focus your efforts on those. Once you get in the habit of this, you will actually find that life is less difficult because you are choosing high value activities, so you are creating more value. That said, sometimes these high value activities require more from us in terms of courage, than in actual work. Making that call to a prospect. Starting the big new project. Writing a proposal for a new product or new way f doing things. That can be scary, no two ways about it, and no amount of efficiency is going to help you find courage. Here is where you simply need to reach into your heart, or reach out to whatever sort of Higher Power you believe in, and find the courage to do the important tasks.

So, to sum up, if you want to make a difference, and be paid accordingly, you need the wisdom to determine the most important tasks, the courage to actually do them, and a system that keeps you moving efficiently. See you in the 1%






Written by

Dave is trained at the Coaches Training Institute and certified by the International Coaching Federation. He has worked with dozens of clients to achieve remarkable results, including revenue growth, clearer strategic direction, enhanced leadership, and promotions to positions of greater responsibility. You can learn more about him at or follow him at @DarkMatterCon, or GooglePlus.

2 Comments to “THE 21st Century Imperative”

  1. Amanda says:

    Great article – what an important lesson to learn! Although I’d argue that the feeling of accomplishment /success is more important than earning more -

  2. Dave Kaiser says:

    Agree, Amanda, totally, and the question remains the same, what actions result in big payoffs, and what is just busywork you can ignore?

Leave a Reply