“It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement.” Mabel Newcomber

What a great quote to begin the New Year. So often in life we find ourselves doing things that while they may be necessary, do not move us in the direction of our goal or life plan. Do you find that to be true? Do you find that sometimes at the end of a really busy day, you are left wondering what it is you actually achieved?

In fact, for those of you who value time (and I will assume we all do) then you know how important it is to “manage” or “spend” your time as wisely as possible. And yes, STUFF happens that can get in the way of achieving your daily goals. That is a given. When that happens I take it as a wake-up call to re-examine my own priorities and look inside for what really matters. And that’s another topic for another day.

One of the time-management principles that help me in achieving my goals is by following the simple 80–20 rule. The 80–20 rule simply means that 80% of your progress will come from 20% of the actions you take on a day to day basis. The real secret is in know which actions to take to get you there. And if you don’t know what your goal is, it will be like running around the block. You end up exactly where you started!

Here’s a little exercise that may help you discover how effective your actions are and re-define which actions you need to take to get you there. It is called an Effectiveness Audit. It is really quite simple to do. As you begin and end each day, every morning and every evening take 5 minutes to reflect on the activities you do/did today. Give these activities a score from minus 5 (-5) to plus 5 (+ 5). A +5 score will be a major advancement toward achieving your goal and a -5 will be something that not only did nothing to help you toward your goal it likely hindered your getting there. Zero (0) is neutral and the activity did nothing either way toward achieving your goal. Add up your scores and if you are in the minus at the end of adding up those points, then it is time to reassess your goals for #1 What you really want to achieve and #2 How you are going to do so.

You can run around the block all day long and if your goal is to lose weight, that would be an activity that would work toward achieving that goal; but if you are running around the block and the goal is to something entirely different, then maybe it’s time to change direction.

Originally published at medium.com