I must be getting somewhere…

Activity versus progressAt a planning and strategy meeting the other day, a client gloomily confessed that she’s going to have to do something about one of her employees.

“She’s always very busy, but she’s not getting anywhere,” she said. “She’s great at writing reports …”

“That say nothing,” I finished for her when she trailed off.

We’ve all been there: the challenge of the employee (or – ahem! – even ourselves, on occasion) who is constantly doing things, but doesn’t ever seem to get things done.

The to-do list that never ends, but also never seems to get you, your team, or your organization any closer to your goals.

It’s called confusing activity with progress.

Activity, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily productive. Just because you’re at your desk every day for eight (or nine, or ten …) hours straight doesn’t mean you’re moving closer to your goals.

There’s a big difference between focused action on important tasks and the sort of work a colleague once called “administrivia” – which, really, is anything that doesn’t move you closer to your goal.

Focus is key. And it’s all too easy to lose focus in this crazily over-busy, instant-gratification, everything-is-urgent world. Between email, text messages, phone calls, social media, and unnecessary meetings, it’s a wonder anyone gets anything done.

Those who do get things done – real things that create real results towards real goals – are the people who have learned to focus.

Because just being busy doesn’t mean you’re actually accomplishing a damned thing.

The question of how to maintain focus isn’t an easy one. There are, after all, all those other things that grab our attention and seem urgent, even though they’re not important.

That’s why I wrote the Action Paper entitled “The Discipline of Reflective Review: 7 questions to improve your focus, increase your productivity, and achieve your goals.”

You can download it here.