Legendary coach John Wooden once said, “Do not confuse activity with achievement”. What he was getting at, and this has become truer and truer over the years, is that while we like to measure ourselves by our work hours what really matters is what gets done. In the commerical construction industry, there is certainly plenty to get done on any given day.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m horrible at this. I am constantly driven to be active, to make phone calls and send emails and check my to-do list to make sure it’s dwindling. Some of that is good, but at times this flurry of activity is just that – activity. Sometimes it just feels wrong to stop and think or to allow a slower time of the day to be slow.
This is why goals matter, and even more importantly, why a life mission matters. If we are driven by the micro missions of the day without a long term mission in view, we will be tossed to and fro. Our mood will rise and fall, and we will never know if we’re winning.
Some of the least successful people I have worked with were busybodies. They were constantly working – or trying to look like they were. They wanted you to know they stayed up late working on something or got up early. Busybodies try to justify themselves by their work hours, but they never get anything done.
It’s easy to be a busybody, especially today. Just check your email or send a bunch of emails. You can stay in the email pit for a whole day if you try. Trust me, I’ve done it. It is actually harder to be effective than it is to be busy, because being effective requires thought and intentionality instead of just activity.
We only have so much time, so whatever we decide to spend our time on should be considered an investment. And, like an investment, we need to choose to allocate our investment dollars wisely. When it comes to our careers, we must invest ourselves into doing our part to further the mission of our organization. When it comes to life in general, we must invest ourselves into what we believe matters most. Activity isn’t achievement, but the wise investment of time and resources in the right places will yield results.