As you grow a business, it's pretty common for your calendar to have a whole lot more space blocked off because of added responsibilities, increased demand for your expertise, and more earned opportunities. Doing a bunch of stuff is not the same as accomplishing meaningful, intentional, and disruptive goals, however. And if you want to be happy and avoid burnout, then you need to be extremely careful that you strive to do the latter.

Based on my personal observations, here's what I consider to be the biggest differences between doers and real achievers: 

Doers

  • Like to talk about what they've done.
  • Try to find more windows of time to tackle additional problems.
  • Have a short-term view overall.
  • Attempt many activities within existing channels, systems, or rule sets.
  • Describe solutions or projects according to quantity or measurement.
  • Often micromanage or insist on doing work themselves.
  • Often work on many unrelated items or dabble in many independent areas (Jack-of-All-Trades).
  • Pause to regroup for the next task.
  • Know many people only superficially due to hectic schedules.
  • Believe strongly in follow-through for the sake of completion.

Achievers

  • Let what they've done speak for itself.
  • Let finding a solution to an existing problem determine how much time is free for more.
  • Have a long-term view overall.
  • Attempt targeted activities according to their own channels, systems, or rule sets.
  • Describe solutions or projects according to quality or influence.
  • Easily delegate, trusting the expertise of others.
  • Create a highly interconnected matrix that builds on previous work and experience (wise expert).
  • Pause to consider how to improve or whether the previous task was worthwhile.
  • Know a more limited number of people deeply, due to long-term collaboration.
  • Believe strongly in constantly evaluating whether ROIs are sufficient, and pivoting when they aren't.

How to Become an Achiever

To become an achiever rather than a doer, for everything in front of you, you must ask yourself not only "What difference will this make?" but also "Why does that difference matter?" You must quiet your ego and consider others as much as yourself, and you must prioritize legacy over paycheck and immediate gratification.

In the United States and other areas of the world, culture sends a strong message that being busy is the same as being successful. In fact, people often wear the number of hours they work as a badge of honor that somehow proves they're in the big leagues in terms of intelligence, skill, and influence.

But consider a bee. Sure, most think of this creature as the epitome of being busy. But the concern for this wildly important insect actually isn't how many plants it can get to in a day. The concern is whether the bee can find nectar and pollen, and whether the bee can carry enough of that nectar and protein-rich pollen back to the colony to make sufficient food for winter. Dried up, sick, or otherwise insufficient plants simply aren't going to cut it for this purpose.

In the same way, your concern shouldn't be to flit from job to job or task to task just to say you did in hope of respect and acceptance. Your concern as a leader should be to ask yourself what tasks can sustain, strengthen, and grow you and others, and to focus your energy only on those. It is the significance of the job, not the number of jobs, that ultimately wins admiration and protects you from burnout, so stay focused and don't anything distract you from your intended or desired purpose.

Published on: Nov 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.