Systems & Tips

Thursday Time Tip: Focus on Outcomes, Not Activity

Focus on Outcomes Not Activity

A costly mistake we can make is to measure our productivity the wrong way: how many hours we work, how early we woke up, how much time we’ve blocked off without interruptions to focus on that latest project.

But we all realize that what really matters is the results, not how long we worked. So obviously let’s shift our focus to what’s truly important to measure.

It’s a simple mindset switch, but it’s powerful.

Matt Perman in What’s Best Next:

Focus on outcomes, not activities. If you define your work in terms of activities, it’s too easy to invent work that doesn’t need to be done at all. Worse, Parkinson’s Law often comes into effect.

When Perman mentions Parkinson’s Law, he’s referring to the tendency for tasks to take up whatever time you’ve allotted to them. Set aside 2 hours to clean your office, and it will take 2 hours. Set aside an entire day, and you’ll probably end up stretching out the task so it takes all day.

Perman continues:

You need to keep your eyes focused on what you are here to contribute, not simply do. You need to direct yourself to effectiveness — the right outcomes — not mere activity. Therefore, don’t ask yourself, “What tasks need to be done?” Ask yourself, “What outcomes need to be accomplished?” Then determine the activities that will get you there.

So at the end of the day, don’t just think about what tasks you were able to successfully cross off your list. Take some time to think about if you made the intended progress towards your goals.

Photo Credit: Purple Slog (Creative Commons)

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