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Don't Major In Minor Things

Thomas's langur (Presbytis thomasi), or Thomas’s leaf monkey, eating a banana in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.

Thomas's langur (Presbytis thomasi), or Thomas’s leaf monkey, eating a banana in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.

This morning I woke up to an inspirational message. It came in the form of a YouTube video featuring audio from John Rohn. In it, John Rohn says, “Don’t major in minor things.” This caught my attention. I’m guilty of majoring in minor things often. I began thinking about the minor tasks I spend a lot of time on. This led me to think about the major tasks I don’t spend enough time on.

I got out a notebook and made a list of major and minor tasks in regards to photography:

  • Major Tasks:

  • Minor Tasks:

    • Tinkering with the appearance of this website

    • Playing with Etsy promoted listings

    • Thinking about the camera gear I want

    • Making lists such as this one

    • Worrying about what time and day I post my YouTube videos

    • Checking my likes on Instagram

    • Checking my views on YouTube

    • Checking how many people have signed up for my newsletter in the past day or week

    • Checking my stock photo sales

The minor task list is much longer than the major list. One could even argue that everything besides taking photos should be in the minor list. Getting out to take photos achieves so much on it’s own.

When I go out to take wildlife photos I am walking, and that is taking care of my health. When I see an animal, I learn, through many failed attempts, to approach stealthily. I learn through practice, in the pressure of the moment, how to create a good composition. I learn where the animals tend to be, when they tend to be there, how close they will let me get, and how they will behave.

The problem is that getting out to take photos can sometimes be the most difficult task. I like to sleep in. It’s easier to check stats of previous photos. It is more comfortable to make lists of shots you are going to get than it is to go out and get them. It makes me happy to see all the likes and views I am getting.

This does not mean I should stop all minor tasks. It simply means I should learn to recognize when I am making myself busy with a minor task and limit the time I spend on it. Also, I should allocate more time to major tasks. Currently, I spend more time overall on minor tasks than on major tasks. I need to flip this.

It is ironic that it took a minor task—writing out this list—for me to see this. However, I needed this minor task to teach me to focus on the major tasks. To help me do this, I have created a weekly schedule (I know, another minor task) for myself that places each major task on a specific day of the week. I now have a single major task to focus on every day. My hope is that this makes me more focused, productive, and successful.

What minor tasks do you tend to focus on? What major tasks do you want to spend more time on? I would love to have a discussion around this in the comments below.