Fred Smith, Sr., Coach John Wooden, and Zig Ziglar all agreed on this.
Don’t confuse activity with achievement.
That seems simple enough on the surface. But when you’re out there in the real world, where things can and often do go wrong, interrupt you, or force you to change your plans, how do you tell if the work you’re doing really matters?
Let me illustrate.
It’s summer as I write this. Many of us plan to take a vacation somewhere. Can you imagine waiting until a day before you leave to decide where to go?
If you wanted to go to Myrtle Beach, you’d have to secure a room or a condo months in advance. If you don’t, you might be able to get one a hundred miles away – if you’re lucky. That’s a long drive to the beach.
And of course, you’ll need some money to eat, see the sights, and put gas in the car.
You wouldn’t be using your time well if you just jumped in the car and asked your spouse, “Honey, which direction do you think we should go?” If he or she says, “This way looks good” but doesn’t consult a map, you might find yourself in Mississippi after six or eight hours of driving.
There are three questions you should ask yourself when taking on a project. This is especially important at work, but you’ll find these questions useful in your work at church, in the community, and at home.
The first question you should ask is “What is my goal?”
This will help clear the fog that comes from a pile of work once it drops before you. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to accomplish? What will this look like when I’m done?” Be as vivid as you can. If you can get a clear view of what the finished work is, you have a goal.
The second question you should ask is, “What part of this should I be doing and what part is best left to others?”
Now that you know exactly what you want to accomplish, work backward to mark out the path to get there. If you’re doing this with a team, make sure the players fill their roles. Can you imagine a baseball team on the field where there is only one player? You can’t pitch, man all the bases, the infield, and the outfield simultaneously. You can see how silly that idea is. Doing other people’s work and paying them to do it is just as insane.
The third question you should ask yourself is, “What must be done to reach my goal?”
This is a clarifying process. Now that you’ve laid out the steps to get to yur goal, you must decide what is important and what is a waste of time. When you sift the tasks you could do and let the unnecessary ones fly away like chaff in the wind, you minimize distractions, ensure you stay on course, and are able to make better adjustments to get you to completion.
If you’ll ask yourself these three questions, you’ll spend less time spinning your wheels and looking busy and more time accomplishing things that really matter.
Once time is spent, it’s gone forever. How will you spend yours?