There are as many productivity tips as there are people who violate them. Work in 25-minute bursts. Do the same things at the same time each day. Use Evernote. Plan out your week every Sunday. Do the hardest thing first.

Just keeping track of all this advice is exhausting. Actually heeding it? Forget about it.

This is why I generally avoid the subject of productivity altogether. But as I’ve been thinking about what it takes to grow a business and looking (admittedly, with some disappointment) at my readership the past few weeks, these words are never far from my mind:

We overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time. We underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period of time.

I don’t remember where I first encountered this idea, but it has stuck with me for years.

We overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time.

The to-do list sitting next to me on my desk is clear evidence of this tendency. No surprises there.

We underestimate what we can accomplish in a long period of time.

In a world of constant distraction, ever-shortening attention spans, and ever-increasing demands on our time, this idea is incredibly profound.

It won’t necessarily help you get more done today. It offers nothing for the laundry list of tasks that needed to be finished yesterday (except, perhaps, the reminder that we have indeed overestimated our short-term capacity to get things done). No, it’s so much bigger than that.

By reminding us how much we can accomplish if we take the long view of our lives, this idea can actually help us spend our time on the things that are worth doing.

Have you always wanted to write a novel? Take a trip around the world? Learn a new language? Take your career in a new direction? Start today, and be amazed at how much you can do in a year.

Your to-do list pales in comparison to the things that really matter. May this simple idea help you do more of them.

Robin Cangie is a career coach and personal brand strategist. Through a combination of loving inquiry and nonjudgmental curiosity, she helps professional women design personal brands and careers that align with their most important values. Learn more about her work and approach at ​