“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill
We are an accomplishment-oriented society. At work we receive praise for “getting things done”. Our best employees are the ones who “find a way to get the job done”. In our personal lives we talk about having had a great year because “we got a lot of things done”. We cross things off our to-do list and the more things we cross off the better day it is.
But do any of those things really matter? If we complete a whole bunch of tasks and afterwards our businesses or our lives aren’t any better than they were before, then were we really successful? I think too often we have no clue why we’re doing the things we’re doing. We just think that if we’re really busy then certainly we’re being productive.
The reality is that too often we’re doing things that don’t matter. We’re doing things that have little to no impact on our success or happiness. We pat ourselves on the back but at the end of the day we don’t feel any better about life than we did before. Somehow we have to be able to determine what’s really relevant so we can focus on that and eliminate all the useless busy-ness.
The first problem is that too often we have no idea where we’re trying to go. How can we possibly decide what to spend our time on when we don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish? If you don’t have a picture in your head (or better yet, on paper) of what you want your life or business to look like, there’s no way you can be effective. You’ll end up doing things just to do them. You’ve got to have a clear vision of what you want the end to look like.
Even with a clear picture, change won’t happen overnight. Somehow you have to be able to know if you’re on the right track as you go, or if you need to change direction. Somehow you have to be able to measure your progress. What are the metrics you use to see how it’s coming? If your vision is to double in sales, then maybe it’s sales. But sometimes it’s not that easy. And easy or not, too many businesses try to make change without thinking about how they’re going to measure success. Then they do a bunch of work and afterwards have no idea if they made any progress or not.
“Getting a lot of stuff done” is great if it’s the right stuff. Before you run off for the rest of the day doing things, think about what things are really important in achieving the vision you have for your business or your personal life. And think about how you’ll know when you’ve achieved those things. If you don’t do either of those things, you’ll spend a lot of energy running without ever reaching the finish line.