Activity vs Results
It’s the beginning of summer here in Austin, Texas and the weather is hot and sunny. Today I want to discuss a very important topic- confusing activity with results. Many times, we’ve heard in sales and other number driven roles, that if you do the activity, you will get the results. I want to clarify, that you can be doing a lot of activity in the wrong tasks, and you will not get any results.
You have to focus the activity on the right tasks, the tasks that are going to be important and those tasks that are going to move the dial-if you focus the activity on the right tasks, then yes, you will get the results; but if you focus the activity on the wrong tasks, not only will you not get results, but you are also taking away time, focus and effort from the things that truly matter. And instead, you are doing what is easy, and what may be urgent but not important.
There are two critical things here. One is, understanding what is important versus urgent and prioritizing your tasks and actions that are going to move the dial and are going to get you what you want- what is going to positively impact your life, your family’s life, your work life, the quality of your relationships, etc. So, the first step is to prioritize those tasks and categorize them in A, B and C- A tasks, you do right away, while C tasks, you put on the backburner, to do later or not do at all. That’s the first step.
The second step is, clearly identifying what action you need to take and what needs to happen. The actions you must take in each of those priority A tasks, may be different. Therefore, you need to create a breakdown of each of those tasks, and the steps required to get you to your final destination in each of those tasks. Then, once you’ve done that, you focus on the needed activities-be specific, clear and time bound. There are certain things that are important, and you need to do on a priority, but you’re never going to get to everything-you will probably die with emails in your inbox and pending tasks in your Project Tracker. So, don’t even attempt to do everything.
Get comfortable saying No
The key here is to recognize what you say yes to, and what you say no to-if you say yes to everything, nothing will get done. It’s okay to say no to certain things that are lower on the priority list because they may be important to others, but they may not be important to you. They may be urgent to others, but they may not be urgent to you. As a result, understanding the difference between prioritization of tasks, and then following it up with time bound activity in the right areas is critical. Some of the actions you can take yourself, while you’re dependent on other people, for certain actions. How do you ensure that you get the other people to do what you need them to do, in the timeframe that you want?
The first step is to clearly communicate your expectation and why you need them to take certain actions. This is important, because people will forget what you do to them, and what you say to them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. So, when you communicate, you need to communicate effectively, and clearly establish what is required- they are not mind readers, so you need to tell them explicitly, clearly and precisely.
Secondly, you need to assign time bound intervals for each of their tasks, and don’t leave it open ended. Tell them, as an example- “John, I need you to do this task by Wednesday the 24th of June because this is what we are trying to do. And if you do this, this is what will happen. More importantly, if you don’t do this, the project will slip, we’ll miss the deadline, and we won’t get the deal etc.” Break it down very clearly and hold people accountable. Give them the time they need and the freedom they need to execute on the task, but you still need to keep track of it and be responsible.
It helps to be organized and create a project spreadsheet with rows and columns- each prioritized task is in each row, and then you have columns based on who’s doing it, who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who needs to coordinate it, and who needs to be informed, and by when. When you list out all the key tasks, and you break them down into the corresponding activities needed, you ensure that nothing falls through the cracks- you hold yourself accountable and you hold other people accountable as well.
When stuff slips through the cracks
If something is slipping through the cracks, you need to communicate quickly and often. It can be a quick short call or a quick message saying-“Hey John, today is April 4th-this task was due on April 3rd and is delayed.” Please explain why. And more importantly, what actions you are going to take, to correct it, so that we get back on the desired timeline.
When you structure your day and other people’s tasks like that, you will get a lot achieved- you will get things done, that need to be done, and are prioritized, and need focused attention for the right reasons. You will not get the things done, that you don’t need done-they may be urgent, or they may be important to someone else and not to you. And that’s okay.
Protect your time
In order to say yes to the key activities, you need to say no to the others, and you need to be maniacally focused on protecting your time-your time is critical, so use it appropriately and wisely. Some people like to do this process with a pen and paper, while others like to do it electronically-do whatever works for you. This is a system for you, so that you get the things done that should be done and not for anybody else. You be you and you do you, and remember, don’t confuse activity with results.
If you have additional questions or would like to schedule a complimentary discussion on how you can prioritize better and focus on the right activities to get results, and live a more balanced, fulfilled and happier life, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org