"You never want to confuse activity with accomplishment." --John Wooden
Wooden may be the most successful coach who ever lived. His overall record in his 29 years as a head coach: 664-162. That's an .804 winning percentage, meaning he won four games out of every five.
How good was he? Well, he won 10 national basketball championships at UCLA in the 11 years between 1964 and 1975.
Think about that for a second.
These days, people talk about a team being a "dynasty" when it wins three championships in a row. For Wooden, that would have been just a warm-up.
When people asked him for his "secrets" of success, Wooden would invariably say one key factor was the quote that kicked off this post: Being busy is not the same as making progress toward your goals.
The simplest example of that?
Just because you show up at work every day and put in long hours doesn't mean you are getting the right things done.
In fact, thinking about the numbers of hours you work just confuses the issue.
Time is not a factor. Quality, making progress, and accomplishing your goals is.
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The activity--going to work; returning countless emails; going to meetings--in and of itself doesn't lead to accomplishing anything (although it can easily take up most of your day.) Sure, when you go home at night you can say "I sure was busy today." But what did you actually accomplish?
What does it take to get the job done right?
Wooden believed that you had to follow a defined, planned-out routine that maximized efficiency. And you had to follow that plan every day until it became second nature to you.
Sounds like good advice to me.
3 takeaways from John Wooden
1. Before you turn off your computer for the night the question to ask is not how busy you were during the day, but how much closer you came to accomplishing your most important goals. If the answer is "not very" something is wrong.
2. Do you have a routine in place to get the absolute most out of tomorrow?
3. Does that routine include making sure you waste as little time as possible. (Do you have the folders/files you need right at hand, so you can start work immediately. Is the background you need easily accessible? If you are traveling, is all the information you need about getting from Point A to Point B in one folder. Do you have the email addresses and phone numbers you need. )
Sure, you can spend 15 minutes or more scrambling in the morning to find everything from that one critical piece of information to the suit you could have sworn you picked up from the cleaners.
You sure will have been busy during that time. But what will you have actually accomplished?
Wooden was right: You never want to confuse activity with accomplishment.