How to Avoid Molehills & Start Climbing Mountains

A friend of mine recently completed a large project in his job.

It took him 6 months to complete. When he finished it, he felt great.

However, he soon conveyed to me some regret.

Looking back he realized that this large endeavor did not further his business.

In fact, the feel-good project really did not do much of anything.

He had spent 6 months of effort working on what turned out to be a molehill.

Are you concentrating on climbing the mountains in life… or are you busy shoveling molehills?

Molehills Are Easy

When we look at what we are doing at work and home, it can be easy to get caught up in the small things.

The many little tasks that take up our time each day.

Some are necessary. Others not so much.

It can be easy to get pre-occupied with the molehills.

They can take over our time and lives.

Sometimes we attack the molehills because they are easier.

Other times, because they are more apparent and right in front of us.

However, you need to step back to get a bigger look at what matters.

Only then do you see the mountains.

I recently took a hard look at my TMN website activities and found many molehills. These were little things that were taking up my time, but really weren’t important.

My molehills…

- Wanting to update the graphics and layout on my site

- Playing with the latest software or gadget

- Endlessly tweaking back-end settings on my site

I may want to do these things.

Some of them are entertaining and fun. But, they aren’t important in the big picture.

The mountains I should be climbing are…

- Writing my book

- Starting my webinar/podcast series

- Publishing articles with top-tier sites to gain a larger audience

- Collaborating with my peers in the industry

These are the things that will show dramatic results over the long term.

It’s important to step over the molehills, and concentrate on the big things.

Mountains Are Big For a Reason

The irony is that mountains are often so big, that we fail to see them.

They fade into the landscape and we are left staring at the molehills.

Here are my tips on “How to Avoid the Molehills and Climb Mountains:”

  1. Take a Step Back – Often the best way to get a better perspective is to take a break and step back. You may think you were climbing a mountain, but in reality you were tending to a molehill on the side of the mountain.
  2. Get a Second Opinion – You may be so vested in the project at hand that you cannot be objective. Seek the opinion of a trusted friend. Someone outside the situation who can give you the true lay of the land from their vantage point.
  3. Pick the Path Less Travelled – The well-worn path is that way for a reason. Often, it is the easy route that others have taken. If you want to do big things, you need to choose your own path.
  4. Get Organized - Going on a mountain climbing expedition takes planning, organization, and strategy. One of your first priorities should be to get on top of your workload and obligations. If you don’t know your load, you won’t make it up the mountain.
  5. Think Bigger - To the person who has never seen a mountain, it can be easy to mistake the molehills for such. Make sure your goals and dreams are big enough.
  6. Don’t Settle -Many people spend their whole lives shoveling molehills because they settle for them. If you don’t push yourself, you will always end up with the small molehills. I promise, you are stronger than you think.
  7. Molehills Often Look Fun - The truth is that many molehills are fun. The latest project or shiny gadget can be tempting. Soon you are abandoning what is most important to play with the latest “hot topic.”
  8. Get Uncomfortable – Accomplishing big things is not easy. Climbing mountains is hard work. You will have to leave your comfort zone. After all, that is where the molehills are.
  9. Delegate the Molehills – One of the best ways to avoid the molehills is to have someone else deal with them. Delegate, outsource, or have a service deal with the molehills. This can be done at all levels. In the most literal sense, it is paying someone to mow the lawn so that you can do bigger things.

Climb the Mountains

What are you spending your time on?

Are you shoveling your way through molehills?

Doing things that really don’t matter in the long run.

Or are you attacking big, life-altering things?

Forget the molehills.

There are mountains out there!

Q: Do you spend too much of your time on the molehills in life? What are the mountains you should be climbing?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://staying.afloat.ca/ AndrewJ

    I’m in the middle of a molehill project right now that will tie me up for a couple of months. Unfortunately the realities of resource availability sometimes come into play. It does make it hard to get more strategic projects done in the meantime.
     
    On the positive side, it does keep my technical chops up to speed. They do get rusty!

  • CityScooter_LV

    Great article. Thanks. RT @TMNinja Molehills are easy, mountains are hard. Read: “How to Avoid Molehills & Start Climbing Mountains”

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  • http://softcubicle.com/ pekka.kuismanen

    I like the expedition idea.

    • TMNinja

       @pekka.kuismanen Thanks… I think that many people don’t get to their big goals because they don’t have a plan.
       
      Big Goals don’t tend to happen by accident. Planning them like an expedition ensures you are looking at the whole picture and not just the first step. 

  • http://fetchezlavache.millerchip.net/ amillerchip

    Nice article, although I think it’s too easy to take away from this the message “Small and fun = molehill, big and scary = mountain”. I think it’s important to distinguish a small step up the mountain from a step on the molehill – the big important tasks can and should be broken down into small chunks too, and those can also be fun.

    • TMNinja

       @amillerchip Good point… it is important to distinguish between a molehill and a step up the mountain. I like that analogy. :)

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

    One idea that helps me is monetizing my time. If you want to make $100K a year, then your time is worth approximately $50 an hour. So if that was your income goal, don’t take on any activity that’s worth less. Even if income isn’t your primary goal (non-profit work or such), the monetization mindset still helps you evaluate things better.

    • http://staying.afloat.ca/ AndrewJ

       @Loren Pinilis Can’t say I agree with that. Seems-short sighted at best. 

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

         @AndrewJ It’s not the sole factor used in making decisions, but it’s a perspective that assists me in evaluating. Why would it seem short-sighted?

      • http://staying.afloat.ca/ AndrewJ

         @Loren Pinilis Two reasons. A lot of tasks have inherent value that isn’t monetary or isn’t for short term financial gain. A lot of critical business activities might actually cost money in the near term (years) but will benefit in the long term (decades). Focusing too much on the immediate cash value will often just piss of customers because they’ll think that you are nickle and diming them.
         
        On the flip side, a lot of activities that will make you immediate money aren’t good for long term strategy. It might distract your focus, or taint your brand for example. 
         
        I get what you are talking about though, and I agree that it is important to keep cash value in perspective. 

      • TMNinja

         @AndrewJ  @Loren Pinilis I can see both sides of this.
         
        I think what Loren was saying is that you can put a monetary value on some smaller tasks. 
         
        I too use that sometimes to decide whether they are worth doing myself.
         
        And yes, the other side is that some of these activities are crucial to the long term success. I think technical skills (like Andrew mentions below) would fall into this category. 

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

         @AndrewJ Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Long-term investment requires a different strategy. I think this is more about deciding on one relatively short-term project vs. another. It’s just one tool in your arsenal.

  • http://www.productivesuperdad.com/ ProductiveSd

    Craig,
     
    It is true … too often we are stuck on something which is fun to do, but isn’t really that important.
     
    I think we all battle against the molehills on a daily basis and the way it can be tackled is like what you mentioned in step 1: Reflecting a bit and seeing a big picture – your vision. Only after that, make your next best move towards that vision.
     
    Cheers,
    Timo

  • cathferringo

    Thanks Craig.  You are so right.  I will plan time in the next couple of days to start with step 1: take a step back. Thanks so much! 

    • TMNinja

       @cathferringo Thanks for the kind words, Cath! Keep in touch!

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  • sanebox

    @grmeyer Thanks for the RT Greg!

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