I think there are times where I think focusing purely on activity is absolutely a good thing. Instances of this may be developing a new habit (exercise, reading, drinking more water, etc) or doing something where success is completely based on volume.

That said, I think it’s easy to get caught up in focusing on activities and not concern ourselves with the value of those activities. We don’t take time to step back and see if those things are taking us to the goal we’re trying to achieve…or if we even know what our goal is in the first place.

I’m sure this challenge spans industries but feel like it’s especially easy to fall into with marketing. We’re focused on best practices, what worked before and easily get trapped into just going through the motions. It’s easy to become so caught up in the tactical but totally forget to take a step back and focus on strategy. Asking “why?” before setting our to-do lists. After all, it’s easier to say “we wrote X number of blog posts, tweeted X amount of times, reached out to X number of influencers, got X number of impressions, etc.” than to see if any of those activities are even taking us where we need to go.

What happens when we prioritize activity over value?

We Get More Stressed Out

Because we’re prioritizing activity, our value only increases proportionally with the number of tasks at hand - not whether those tasks are moving the needle. We’re working harder, not smarter. Prioritizing activity over value increases the workload without a why. When we don’t know why we’re doing what we do, it’s easy to stress out. Activities without a destination turns into a work treadmill (or hamster wheel…depending on your preferred metaphor).

In addition, as a leader, it’s important to remind your team where you’re heading. It helps them do better work for you when they know how it fits into the big picture. Nobody enjoys busy work.

We Make Worse Decisions

Prioritizing activity over value means we’re not taking a step back to look at the big picture. We’re not trying to do a few things well. We ultimately land in a place where we’re just trying to survive. All of our decisions are made in the short term as a result, which has a compounding negative effect over time.

Work Quality Diminishes

When we continually prize the quantity of how much we’re doing and not how valuable our activity is, we easily get stretched thin. One thing we forget (or at least are too proud to admit) is that we are human. We can’t do it all. As we try to do more and more, our work quality can’t keep up with the quantity we keep putting on ourselves.

You Can Work Hard AND Smart

You may read all of the above and see a slacker mindset. Not at all! I’m simply advocating for taking time to think, strategize and prioritize our efforts. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work hard. We all have finite resources (like time in a day, focus and energy) and have to use them wisely. Sometimes that may mean slowing down a project up front to make sure you’re looking at the big picture. Ironically, that can save you a ton of time down the road…and help you accomplish even more.

A friend of mine has a LOT on his plate. He’s on a lot of boards and incredibly active with his company, family and community. However, even he noted that when he focuses more and looks at the big picture, he accomplishes way more than he is during “busy” seasons.

Kicking off the work week, take a step back and look at your to-do list. Prioritize what to get done. Cross off any tasks that you truly don’t think are going to move the ball forward for you or your team. You may do less things but still get way more done.

Thoughts?