Do ACTIVITIES or OUTCOMES drive your goals?
A few days ago I excitedly shared with one of my accountability partners that, as part of the process of creating a series of e-books, I’m going through all the content I’ve created over the years to see what could profitably be adapted to this new project.
There was a whole lot of silence on the other end of the line. The kind of silence that clearly conveys the message, “Why the hell are you spending time doing that?”
It got me thinking: I’ll bet every entrepreneur has, at some point, put a lot of effort into some task, only to fumble for an answer when asked, “Why are you doing that?”.
It’s fairly common for entrepreneurs to think in terms of activities rather than outcomes when identifying goals. There are several reasons for this:
- activities are easier to label and identify
- they’re concrete, and therefore easier to work with
- most people are in the habit of listing activities (tasks) on their To Do lists
- and most people are not in the habit of clearly identifying what they want to experience as a result of taking action – the outcome
Why does this distinction matter for your business? Because a focus on activities/tasks rather than outcomes:
- makes it easy to forget Ernest Hemingway’s admonition: “Never mistake motion for action.” In other words, just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean you’re doing the right something which will actually propel you toward where you want to be.
- can lead you to be busy at the expense of being productive
- can result in you doing for the sake of doing, rather than doing in support of a meaningful experience you want to create for yourself and your clients
So what are some of the key differences between outcomes and activities?
- the outcome is the “what” you’ll experience, while the activities are the “how” you’ll achieve it
- the outcome is best described in broad experiential terms, while activities are best identified as specific, discrete action steps
- a desired outcome is typically the engine which emotionally powers your actions, while activities are often more…mundane (but necessary)
How do you ensure that, no matter how you spend your time, you can be confident you’re being smart in using that limited resource?
Clarity + intent + action = success.
You ask yourself, “Why?”.
This simple question can be surprisingly painful – and profitable – to answer. Why? ☺ Because:
- It challenges you to be strategic about how you spend your precious resources of time and energy.
- It prevents you from wasting those resources on tasks that don’t appreciably contribute to your big desired outcomes.
- It requires you to think deeply, not just run after the next bright shiny object that presents itself.
- It’s a powerful tool in avoiding feelings of frenzy and overwhelm. (After all, you know why you’re doing certain things and consciously not doing others.)
When my accountability partner silently asked why I was spending my time on an admittedly tedious sorting task, my first mental response was, “Well…because.” Realizing that was fairly inadequate, and feeling a desire to demonstrate that I was not succumbing to busy work at the expense of productivity, I elaborated. I told her I was strategically organizing my work because:
- I have a lot of evergreen content
- this process enables me to clearly identify the e-book genres it will most appropriately fit into
- it enables me to identify ways I can group topics into individual books
- it allows me to start creating tables of contents for the different books
Once I shared the rationale for my actions with her, she let out what sounded like a relieved sigh (on my behalf) and said, “Fantastic! That’s a great start.”
While “Why?” is a question you can use to inappropriately beat yourself up, when used in the context of “Why are you spending time on this particular activity?”, it will be a powerful way to keep you focused on the action steps that will most directly and profitably lead you to that big, beautiful outcome you’ve committed to create.
How ‘bout you? Are you clear why you spend your time the way you do?
If the answer is, “Maybe. Sorta. Sometimes….”, I can help.
My specialty is working with UFOS: entrepreneurs who are unfocused, frenziedly busy, overwhelmed, or just plain stuck. I show them how to identify what’s really important to them, toss aside what’s not moving them toward that outcome, and create action plans that will get them there.
If that sounds like something worth exploring, grab a spot in my calendar for a no-charge, no-risk get-acquainted call. It will give both of us a chance to see if we’d make a good butt-kicking team. If not, we’ll wish each other well and say “Adieu”. If so…Butts Beware!
(By the way, thanks to Paxson Woelber for posting the summit image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in effectiveness and tagged choice. Bookmark the permalink.