Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden was quoted as saying, “Never mistake activity for achievement.” Those words were never truer than when discussing the focus you must achieve to be productive with your ever-expanding workload. The mistake of simply being “busy” with superfluous tasks too often takes the place of being productive. This mistake is harmful due to its distraction from the more important duties that deliver positive results and move you towards your business goals. With your limited time, you need to be improving your product, directing and training your staff, evaluating your market, overseeing your operations and directly serving your customer. Too often, instead of focusing on what’s important, managers may give their attention to what is easy or fun and avoid the critical but often more difficult tasks. Here are some examples that you may recognize:
1) The best visual-support person is exceptional at making colorful charts and graphs, and spends much of every week building visuals to display data in endless ways — often helping by manipulating positive spin to otherwise negative information. Unfortunately, the person spending all of this time fulfilling his love of visual aids has very different duties, as he is the general manager of a failing club. The time that is volunteered being the visual-support person for the company would be much better served by looking for real solutions instead of colorfully masking problems.
2) A large, national company recently shared with me the plan for an upcoming three-day, regional meeting. The eight-page agenda included details of the necessary pre-trip readings and discussions. Several meetings at the event included breakout sessions and round tables. It also included the nomination process to determine who is in charge of each job throughout the trip, as well as nominating who took information back to the clubs to lead the many in-club meetings. The agenda continues to describe the development of monthly surveys and future meetings and who should lead these meetings and who will attend these meetings. In fact, the topic of this very expensive meeting seems to be about having meetings. But within this 8-page agenda and its hundreds of individual line items there was not a single question or topic that described what positive results hope to come from these meetings and surveys. I asked, “Once all of this information is gathered, what will be done with it?” I did not receive an answer.
3) I have known many fitness directors that say the hardest part of their job is not being sidetracked by the endless activity of the fitness floor. It is extremely easy to fill the entire day with member communication, cleanliness and equipment repair. These tasks are easy to justify because of their urgency and importance. The problem lies in developing a balance between these seemingly urgent tasks and the larger, department-crucial tasks, such as employee training and the oversight of profit centers.
Follow these tips to better focus your time on your most important tasks.
Understand your goals
Your tasks as a leader are broad, but you must understand your ultimate goals in order to focus your efforts. Re-read your job description for a reminder of what is most important.
Have a plan
Define your goals by what you must accomplish daily and weekly. So, you are focused upon smaller and more manageable amounts of time.
Focus on results
The distraction that occurs too often is that there is a disproportionate amount of effort put into assembling and analyzing information compared to doing something with the data you have obtained. Don’t just spend the day hunting and gathering. At some point, you need to eat.
Each day is new with relevant sets of tasks. Consider goals and deadlines, and update your plan daily.
It is easy to deviate from what is important by simply being “busy” with less important tasks. Stay focused on your goals and balance your duties so you will show real production from your valuable time.
John Oei is an operations and strategy consultant and columnist for Club Solutions Magazine. He can be reached through our editor via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.