Not too long ago I started to get back into exercising after a long hiatus. When I initially started out I had the goal in my head to get back to “high school glory”. That meant 210 pounds with a 34-inch waist. I was very focused on this weight and inch goal so much so that every day I would get on the scale and measured my weight. I’d also use a tape measure to measure my waist. I tracked these meticulously every day for months.
The Thought Process
To achieve these outcomes I thought I wanted, I exercised diligently six days a week, including heavy weightlifting and long cardio sessions. Having competed in powerlifting in the past, I feel very comfortable around the gym. It was easy for me to start exercising again when I just dedicated a little bit of time to get it done.
One thing I didn’t do was make any meaningful changes in my nutrition. I believed I could exercise my way through any bad food that I ate and put very little effort into making changes specific to food. After all, when I was in high school, I was eating 8000 calories a day. This is not an exaggeration; I did counts for weight training classes in school and on average ate 8000 calories a day. I couldn’t gain weight if I tried in high school. While I wasn’t eating anywhere close to that anymore, I was still eating 3000+ calories a day.
As far as outcomes are concerned, I lost a few pounds and a couple inches but quickly plateaued. Even after months of continuous effort, I wasn’t really making progress towards the outcomes I wanted. It doesn’t take a fitness degree to see the problems with my thinking.
What Went Wrong?
First, I chose the wrong outcomes. When I think about what’s really important to me now and what the outcomes are that I want versus the outcomes that I need, my weight and waist size are really vanity metrics. While weight and waist size might be indicators of my overall health it really doesn’t matter if my waist is 34 inches or 36 inches. It really doesn’t matter if I’m 210 pounds or 220 pounds. I can still be healthy and feel really good without focusing on these metrics.
Second I didn’t align my thinking and what I was doing with the outcomes that I needed. I didn’t consider all of the inputs required for me to get more healthy and to feel better physically. I was doing the right thing in one area, exercise, but nothing in another important area, nutrition.
The main reason I didn’t adjust the nutrition is that, for me, this is hard work. Exercising comes easy to me. I enjoy the physical exertion and the muscle soreness that comes with a good workout. I’ve never had any difficulty putting in multi-hour workouts.
Food, on the other hand, takes much more effort for me and much more discipline. It’s hard, and as humans, we tend to take easy work over hard work. In my mind, I thought it would be easier to do lots of exercise and nothing with nutrition and still get the results I was looking for even though I knew that I needed a more balanced approach. I told myself, “as long as I work really hard at exercising I’ll still get the outcomes that I want.”
Business is no Different
We do the same things in business. We choose the wrong outcomes, sometimes being persuaded that vanity metrics are the most important drivers for giving us what we want. We count likes and shares of social posts without any real understanding of how these metrics help deliver the outcomes were looking for. We focus on how many people sign up for our newsletter even though very few of those people ever buy our product.
We also focus on the easy things and prioritize those over the hard things even if the hard things will do much more for our business. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive by doing lots and lots of the easy things then measure our work productivity by how much we did as opposed to how much of the right thing we did. We focus on an easy thing and optimize it to death even though we all know we can get 80% of the result with 20% of the effort. Because it’s easy, we choose to do more than we should, and we get an extra 10% of the results but with four times the effort, then pat ourselves on the back for being productive.
Define the Right Outcomes, Then Align Activities
Thinking back to my recent experience with health and fitness, once I recognized that I had the wrong outcomes and the wrong processes to get the outcomes I really needed, I made some adjustments. Realizing that I was over optimizing exercise and not improving my nutrition at all, I started doing less exercise and spent that extra time focused on nutrition. I set up some basic ground rules for what and how I would eat. I installed an app on my phone to help me track what I was eating so I could measure what I was eating and could then relate that to how I was feeling. I am still tracking weight because that is a good general indicator of progress at this point, so I can also track what I eat and how much I eat with the direction my weight is moving.
By balancing out how much I’m exercising and the effort and putting into nutrition over the last two weeks I felt much better. I’m sleeping better, I’m getting better workouts in less time, and generally feel more energetic throughout the day. I’ve also dropped an additional 15 pounds in two weeks and am now in the market for a new belt. I’m still spending about the same amount of time on personal fitness but I’m getting much better results with a balanced approach.
I’ve redefined my desired outcomes based on what I really need versus what I think I want. I’ve realigned how I am taking care of my personal fitness to be in line with those outcomes that I know I need.
Do you need to do the same for your business? Do you have the right outcomes defined or are you chasing vanity metrics? Are your people, processes, and technology aligned with the right desired outcomes? You can and should be thinking about this to get the most out of your business and the results you need for long term success.
Apply This to Your Business
There’s a simple approach you can take to do this for yourself.
First, get clear on your desired outcomes. The ultimate desired outcome of your business falls into three categories: money, freedom, and personal fulfillment. There’s no judgment here and be honest with yourself. If all you want is money, define it that way. The more clear and honest you can be about your desired outcome, the better this will go.
Next, think about the big activities you do as a business. For example, you run Facebook ads and you drive traffic generated by those ads to a landing page to convert into sales. You also serve your customers and provide them support. Each of these activities should have defined desired outcomes that relate to activities further downstream and your ultimate desired outcomes.
To extend the business example, let’s start with an activity of running Facebook ads. We can define the desired outcome of running Facebook ads as generating traffic. We then have an activity to qualify that traffic into leads. The next activity is to take those leads and convert them to sales so we can say the desired outcome of our conversion activity is sales. We then can relate sales as an outcome to our ultimate desired outcome of making money.
With this sequence of activities and defined desired outcomes, we can start to optimize specific parts of each activity. For example, we can look at how we are converting leads to sales. Do we have a good email sequence? Is our copy well written? Are we properly handling objections? Identify parts of the activity that you can tweak and expect to see improvements in your outcomes. Then, with a little trial and error, you can test different scenarios and how they affect the outcomes of your activity.
You might also have to look at previous activities to adjust outcomes later in your process. For example, if your conversion rates are low, it might be because you are poorly qualifying the leads that you do generate and not a problem in converting your leads to sales.
Another part of optimizing for outcomes is to consider steps in your process that don’t help you achieve your desired outcomes. For example, if you are looking to optimize your email sequence for converting leads to sales, look at each email that you have written. Ask yourself, “does this email really help in getting the lead to make a purchasing decision?” For another example, think about the process of onboarding a new client, and as part of this process, you have a team member reach out to collect client information and enter it into your CRM. Think about how relevant this information is to get the outcomes you need from your activities. If you’re not using the information or you are using it in ways that don’t relate to you getting the outcomes you need, stop doing it.
Ultimately, you want to ensure that your people, processes, and technology are all aligned with each other and the desired outcomes of the core activities of your business.
Actions to Take
- Identify one of the core processes in your business
- Define clear desired outcomes for that core process
- Ensure the desired outcomes from this process align with the desired ultimate outcomes of your business
- Analyze the people, processes, and technology of this core system
- Make changes where there is misalignment to the desired outcomes
- Stop doing things that don’t contribute to the desired outcomes