JK Rowling by Daniel Ogren (fast50 on Flickr)

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”

I think everyone knows J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series of novels that became the Harry Potter series of movies. She’s been able to enjoy quite a bit of success with her tale of the boy wizard, but this wasn’t always the case.

From what I recall from one of her interviews, Rowling said that she once had to rely on government subsidies to survive. It goes to show you that anyone has an opportunity at overwhelming success. It may take some help, it may take some luck, but the opportunity is there.

With the quote above, J.K. Rowling really reminds us of the problem with multitasking. We think that we are being more productive and getting more done when we are multitasking, but we just end up with a series of half-finished projects that never got our full attention. Rowling decided to cast aside everything else that “didn’t matter” and focus her efforts solely on writing and publishing her Harry Potter books. And I think you’d agree that everything has worked out quite well for her.

So, what does this mean about our own goals, endeavors and ambitions? In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate all of those distractions and not worry about all of the “inessential” things in our lives. We would be able to focus our energy completely on “the only work that mattered” and not only get it done, but get it done to the utmost of our ability. After all, we are remembered for what we accomplish and not for what we attempt (or think about attempting).

Real life duties and obligations can get in the way. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. These responsibilities are essential to our lives and thus cannot be ignored. We can ignore some of the superfluous fluff that lays on top of all that though. If you can help it, stop dividing your attention side projects and really buckle down on the one that you care the most about. There is definitely merit to single-tasking.

But this lesson extends well beyond just our professional exploits. I think we could all benefit from clearing out the clutter, eliminating the inessential, and really focusing on what matters most to us. Don’t sweat the small stuff… unless that small stuff can lead you to become an international best-selling author.