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What Are Your Core Activities?
What are your core activities? Do you know how to determine when it’s time to pull your resources in so you can focus on your core activities?
Over the course of the year I've learned a lot of good lessons about how to manage my Time, Energy, and Attention (TEA). Since we were moving, growing the business, selling our house, and moving across the country, it required a lot of truthful assessments about what we could and couldn't do.
I often thought about this as if we were on a starship in the Star Trek universe. In case you're not a SciFi nerd, the starships in this universe have shields, engines, weapons, engineering labs, science labs, holodecks, and a whole host of peripheral augmentations that aren’t critical to the functioning of the ship. In times of duress - say, during a starship battle or weird astronomical anomaly - all non-essential activities have their power redirected to the critical function of keeping the ship moving and defensible.
A lot of this year’s resources have been directed at keeping our shields and thrusters going. That we’ve managed to keep things going at the rate we have is something worth celebrating.
At the same time, I haven’t been able to do as much active and passive watching of what my clients, friends, and partners have been up to. I haven’t done as much outreach writing and guest posting. I’ve slowed the rate of product development. Some of these activities are secondary efforts, but them being secondary doesn’t mean that they’re not important.
Core Activities for Businesses
It’s also helpful for entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations to think in similar terms when it comes to the aims of their ventures. If you’re going through a major product launch or PR event, it’s probably not the time to focus on all the tertiary activities that you might normally go through. Focus on the high value activities (HVAs) and the specific tasks at hand, do them well, close them out, and then think about those peripheral activities.
("Business" and "organization" will be interchangeable here so it's easier to write and read.)
Or, more succinctly, don’t mop the floor when the building’s on fire. Get out or put the fire out. While this seems obvious, you’d be surprised how many people are sweating the small stuff at precisely the time they’re slipping on the major items. Keep a better eye on satisfied customers than on your notebook inventory.
The fascinating thing is that the more you focus on your core activities, the better your results will be. There are a surprising amount of peripheral activities that can eat up your resources without any significant payoff.
What catches many people, though, is that they don’t know what their core activities are. For instance, freelancers often spend a lot of time getting better at the craft when they need to be getting better at marketing the solutions they provide. A manager may spend more time wordsmithing reports than managing her people. Or a CEO might spend more time micromanaging people than setting the vision and strategy for the company.
When it comes to businesses, then, there are two ways to think about core activities:
First, think about what the business’s core activities are.
Second, think about what the core activities are for the people who make up the business.
One final clarification: some HVAs aren’t core activities. Networking, for instance, is a high value activity, but it’s also non-essential during short-term crises or sprints.
The value of knowing what your core activities are is that you can make accurate assessments of where your resources should go to accomplish the task at hand. When it's time to pull back, you want to be able to pull back to the right things.
What are your core tasks?