Make your activities count

By Carl Tompkins
June 23, 2011

Great employee activities produce great results, which in turn, create a successful business. As the foundation of a lucrative company, employee activities―including your own― should be regularly assessed to determine how they help your business reach its goals.

First, you must have goals and well thought-out action plans in place to reach those goals. Mark McCormack, author of "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School," conducted a 10-year study of Harvard MBA graduates and discovered that only 3 percent of graduates had written goals and action plans. That 3 percent of students earned 10 times more than the remaining 97 percent combined. Of that 3 percent, students who had goals without action plans earned 80 percent less than those who had both goals and action plans in place. These statistics prove the root of success lies in effective activities.

First things first

On a scale of 1-10, rate each of your daily business activities in terms of how well they contribute to your goals. If the activity gets a high rating, keep doing what you're doing. If the activity gets a low rating, reduce the amount of time you dedicate to it. This assessment will help you re-prioritize how you spend your time. As philosopher and writer Arnold Bennett said, "A major part of successful living lies in the ability to put first things first. Indeed, the reason most major goals aren't achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first."

With your assessment complete, you will probably discover the need to add some activities to help you reach your goals. Here is where the biggest problem most often rears its head: procrastination. While people know they need to do things differently―or add new activities― they don't. Allow me to share the top reasons why people procrastinate.

No. 1: lack of self-discipline and persistence. As golfing legend Gary Player once stated, "We crave the comfortable." Our tendency is to take the path of least resistance and, often, it's not until faced with a life-and-death situation that people change their ways.

The second most common reason for procrastination is fear of failure. No one likes to fail. But a history of project failures or unmet New Year's resolutions creates the mindset: "Nothing has worked before; why believe this will be any different?" Lack of experience regarding the new activity adds to this fear of failure.

Tips and advice

A study by the Group found that self-discipline was the No. 1 differentiator between successful and unsuccessful people. The results indicated that those with great self-discipline were focused and dedicated to long-term goals.

These people learned to live a daily life that did not conflict with or detract from their goals. There were four drivers that enabled them to do so.

First, they were goal driven, indicating their desire to reach out and grow in their abilities. Second and thirdly, they lived as though they had already attained their goals, visualizing the accomplishments and consequences. The final and most self-sustaining driver was their ability to grasp and hold on to the emotion and satisfaction that came from their history of achievement.

To reinforce your ability to take on activities that count:

  • Create a daily, written document defining the activities you need to complete and when.
  • Assign others the authority to keep you on track. One of the most successful people I've ever known in the insurance industry reports to his secretary each day at 4 PM to discuss what he accomplished per that day's scheduled activities. His penalty is that he has to work on Saturday if he fails to follow his plan.
  • Create a daily reward for yourself if you complete your daily schedule as planned.
  • Carry a trinket for behavior modification. A salesman I know carries a small piece of polished teak wood in his left hand as he makes sales calls that acts as his reminder to listen more and talk less.
  • Tie the new habit to an old habit. One gentleman I know has been trying to get into the habit of reading his Bible on a daily basis, but things kept getting in the way. That is, until he placed his Bible on the counter where he keeps his toothbrush. Now, he must read before he brushes, and it works.
  • Attach yourself to someone who excels at your new activity. This will shorten your learning curve, reinforcing your ability to take on new and more meaningful activities, and stick to them.
  • Make sure you achieve at least one goal. Think through one goal and write down the activities you must complete to achieve it. Keep it simple. Set a basic goal that requires as few steps and new activities as possible. Then do it; make it happen. Remember, no one has ever won a championship without winning the first game. It's never too late to start. When you've finally realized your ability to make good things happen, there will be no stopping you. 

The author is global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp., Write him at 

  • Key points

    As the foundation of a lucrative company, employee activities―including your own― should be regularly assessed to determine how they help your business reach its goals.

    Begin by putting goals and action plans in place, and rating each of your daily business activities in terms of how well they contribute to those goals.

    Beware the biggest obstacle to success: procrastination.