Success is rarely the result of one major, sweeping effort. Rather, it's the culmination of a lot of little choices, day after day, that sum up to an impressive body of work. This is true of both individuals and of teams. Major breakthroughs, despite popular myth of the "Eureka moment", typically result from an environment that values small, regular leaps and the measured expenditure of resources against valuable outcomes.

There are four key resources that high contributors spend wisely.

Focus

Though we don't often think of focus as a finite resource, it certainly is. You only have so much mental bandwidth to devote to your work, so how you choose to allocate that finite attention often determines your success or failure. As an extension, how you select the problems you attempt to solve, and how you define those problems, is crucial. Author and productivity consultant David Allen wrote "Mosquitoes can ruin the hunt for big game." A lack of focus can have you swatting at mosquitoes instead of channeling your energy into work that truly provides results.

However, many people and organizations haven't taken the time to clearly define their objectives and prune their projects so that they are spending their focus effectively.

For every project you're presently accountable for, ask:

What is the true desired outcome here?
What are the top three problems to which I should be devoting the majority of my focus?

Assets

These are the finite financial, relational, or physical resources that you have to spend on behalf of an outcome. However, there is often a disconnect between how these resources are spent and the outcomes we're seeking. To better position yourself for success, you need to align your finite assets toward your important problems.

To do so, ask:

Where are crucial assets being spent against less important or legacy work?
Who could I connect with to help me solve one of my key problems?
How can I better align my budget with outcomes rather than with maintenance?

Time

Seneca quipped that we spend our money like it's finite, and our time like it's infinite. In truth, time is our most precious non-renewable resource. It's the currency of productivity. However, many people are obsessed with efficient use of their time at the expense of effective use of it. Thus, they become increasingly efficient at doing decreasingly valuable things. To innovate, you must become comfortable doing things that have little benefit in the short-run so that you may experience tremendous payoff in the long-run.

To use your time more effectively, ask:

Where am I squandering my time on activities that contribute little lasting value toward my key outcomes?
What are the key inefficient, but effective activities that will allow me to make measured progress on my most important work? When will I schedule these activities into my calendar?

Energy

Time is irrelevant if you're too exhausted to take advantage of it. You must also prune your priorities so that you are able to bring your best effort when the stakes are high. However, in a culture that values busyness over productivity, it's tempting to say "yes" to everything out of a fear of missing an opportunity. High contributors and productive teams know how to be selective about where they spend their energy so that they can funnel it into meaningful outcomes.

To follow their example, ask:

What do I need to say "no" to now so that I can create space for new ideas and opportunities to grow?
Which recurring commitments, meetings, or other obligations do I need to prune to free up energy for more important work?
Which commitments am I holding onto out of obligation, even though they've long run their course?

In the end, I believe that your FATE (Focus, Assets, Time, Energy) ultimately determine your fate. Spend these four resources wisely, and you'll be well-positioned to tackle the challenges you face each day.

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Published on: Mar 31, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.