Many leaders are addicted to activity. They judge success and effectiveness by how busy they and their teams are. Overflowing to-do lists and packed calendars are worn as badges of honor. While they work hard on a bunch of stuff, they don’t seem to be making much progress or being very productive.
When they sit down at the end of the week, they know they were busy, but struggle to name accomplishments of consequence. In the end, they’ve fallen for the rush of fake work, which keeps to-do lists long, days busy, and calendars full, but doesn’t move us toward anything significant.
The Importance of Being Productive
Many successful leaders have come to learn that being busy is not the same thing as being productive. While common sense tells us that the more we do, the more productive we are, the truth is that we can do a whole bunch of things and not be productive at all.
This is not an isolated issue. Most people spend an estimated 75% of their time doing things that don’t move them forward. They spend their days spinning their wheels on busy work that makes ZERO impact. It’s understandable because activity is deceptive.
Instead of blindly falling prey to the addiction of more activity, it is imperative that we engage in the right activity. Prioritizing the actions that produce the greatest impact is what will lead to results. And after all, we’re paid to produce results, not stay busy.
1) Have a Clear Direction
Before we can figure out what the right activities are, we must first get clear on where we are going. Unless you have a crystal-clear vision of where you are going and what you what to accomplish, you cannot set clear priorities. Start with the end in mind. When you are clear on that, then you can begin to identify the activities that produce the most impact to move you and your team toward those goals.
2) Choose the Right Priorities
Once you’ve determined where you are going you can better identify the activities that will get you there. Not all activity is created equal. Not everything on your to-do list will move you toward your desired direction. So, it is important to determine what tasks will move the needle in terms of your goals and vision. Focus on doing the tasks that matter most.
3) Make Time for What is Important
Identifying priorities is only half the battle. There will always be fires to put out, people calling for our time, and distractions at every turn. You cannot afford to wait until you have time to do the most important tasks, you must make the time. Growth and progress require proactivity and discipline. There will always be ample excuses not to work on those highest priority activities. If you don’t commit to those, you will continue to spin your wheels and fail to reach your goals.
4) Focus On Productive Results
As a leader, it’s not just about you. It’s also important to bring your team along on the journey. It is up to you to instill a culture and develop a vocabulary of results. Help your team understand that it is not the volume of activity that brings success, it is value of the activity. Don’t focus simply on activity, but talk about what objectives they’ve achieved, results they’ve obtained. For some teams, this is a radical change. It’s not enough to ask about the number of calls made, emails sent, plans developed, or to-dos checked off. We must also ask, what did we accomplish with all of that activity? Creating a culture and language of results is essential to leading your team to success.
There are many professionals who are really good at being busy, but we also need to be good at producing results. With identified goals and priorities combine with discipline and focus, we can accomplish more and build a culture that emphasizes results over activity.