You’re walking home and you spot $5 on the ground. I assume most people would pick it up and think it was a bit lucky finding the $5. Maybe you’ll donate it or you might even buy a lottery ticket while your luck is in. So for a minimum amount of effort (stooping down to pick up the note) it’s well worth the $5.
Now let’s change the environment. You are walking in the country and you notice a $5 note that has fallen through a drain. The grid is too narrow for your fingers to be able to retrieve the note. You get a couple of sticks but the grid is making the task difficult and you’ve already had a few failed attempts.
After a few more frustrated attempts, you can decide to give up or think of another solution to retrieve the note. You could abandon your walk and go back to your car and drive to the supermarket (which is only 20 minutes away) and buy a pair of tongs for $3 and you’d still be $2 in front. Or you could simply decide that it’s not worth the hassle to keep dipping down for a reward of $5. I’d assume that if you are smart enough to be a reader of this excellent newsletter that you’d decide not to keep dipping down for the $5.
Let’s change the environment one more time. You are now at work and have a couple of very important projects with deadlines looming closer. But at the same time you are responsible for making sure your team sends and receives timely reports. Do you ever find yourself losing focus on your big projects and getting bogged down in lower value projects? It’s very easy to dip down to the lower value projects and engage in transactional work. However you need to identify and focus on the work that aligns to the level of your role. Some key questions to ask yourself include… What is the value and cost of you dipping down? Could your time be spent on higher value work? What is the focus of your role?
The next time you are tempted to dip down to lower value work, remember the image of trying to pull the $5 note out of the drain with 2 sticks. This will help remind you that there are bigger fish to fry and train yourself to stop dipping down.