We all want to get more done. But to truly work smarter, you have to do more than optimize your processes. Cutting down on wasted time and duplicate tasks to increase your output is great, but more output for the sake of more output is not enough.
Taking the time to figure out which tasks create the biggest impact is the real key to working smarter. Streamlining and increasing activity can only take you so far. To actually increase ROI – to get something from all that workflow management – you have to focus on the work that moves the needle.
How can you start making a bigger impact? First, let’s think about some common mistakes, and then we can review a few ideas to help you start moving in the right direction.
Common Mistakes We All Make
In the quest for constant improvement, we have focused on squeezing more and more out of each work day, each hour, and each meeting. Hopefully, that’s made us more productive. But being productive isn’t the same as being impactful.
When we focus on being productive, we feel busy. We check the boxes on our to-do list. But we might not actually move the needle.
When we focus on being impactful, we might check fewer boxes. It might be harder to measure our behavior. But it’ll be easy to measure the improved results we’re after.
To make the shift from generating activity to generating impact, we have to understand what it is we’ve been doing wrong so far.
Not All Data Is Good Data
So, how do we make sure our work is effective? We have to look at the right data and understand the difference between the activity and the result. To get that blueprint, you need to focus on leading indicators. What data points can tell you if something’s working before it’s finished?
When we look at leading indicators instead of lagging results, we use data to drive our impact, not summarize our activity.
We have to be careful not to confuse correlation with causation when we’re looking at leading indicators.
These are the activities or events that directly contribute to the end results. This is also known as causation.
These indicators occur at approximately the same time as the leading indicators. This is also known as correlation.
This is the result. It is important because lagging indicators confirm there is a pattern that can be replicated.
In summary, leading indicators move ahead of the cycle, coincident indicators move with the cycle, and lagging indicators trail behind the cycle.
Strive to understand what leading indicators contribute to your desired results. This helps everyone to stay on track and not spin your wheels.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read
Adopting unproven strategies can have a tremendous negative effect on your results. Just because you hear about a content strategy or a scheduling tool that worked for someone, it doesn’t mean you need to make a change. Paid Search advice, even from really smart people, can often be based on theory. There’s no guarantee that one person’s success can be duplicated in your business. Have an advisor that can help you weed through the nonsense.
We’re all focused on doing better. Fresh ideas for improvement are always exciting. But we have to be careful not to jump ship on a good thing without a great reason. Don’t give up something that’s been proven to work for you for something that’s still in beta.
Focus From The Inside Out
Stealing tactics to get results is not a strategy. Often it will leave you chasing ghosts.
If your competitor has a great month or tries something new, you want to know how they did it. Why recreate the wheel, right? But too much focus on competitor’s activity is only going to reduce your impact.
You can’t always know if their new initiative or change in operation actually affected the bottom line. Don’t be too quick to make the link between tactics and results.
Steps to Take Now
Understand the past. Set baselines.
If you don’t know where you have been and where you are now, you will never know where you need to go or how you will get there. Know your leading indicators and create baselines around them.
If an idea, strategy, or tactic sounds interesting, plausible or believable…Test it against your baselines. Guessing puts you in an endless loop.
Seek expert help.
There are a lot of smart, experienced people in this industry that are more than willing to help you. All you have to do is ask.