It’s quite simple to stay busy. For most of us, if we did nothing but respond to our email we could remain occupied all day long. But being busy doesn’t equal being productive.

While I completely endorse a very comprehensive business plan, I also recommend that we take that plan down to a one page document that highlights the key strategies and actions that should deliver our goals. As you execute your plan, you then need to track which ones are yielding you the results you desire. A simple spreadsheet or a more elaborate tracking system can accomplish this. The key is to use whatever system works for you. Notice the emphasis on the word “use” – no system provides benefit if it isn’t used and reviewed for results.

And if you aren’t getting results, you need to take a honest look at why you aren’t experiencing success. Often we keep ourselves busy trying to use strategies that work for someone else because they are aligned to their strengths not our own. In thinking back to my years managing people in the collection function, one of the best routes to success was to match people to assignments which utilized their strengths. Jane could write clear letters that explained why an invoice was valid and due… so she was a terrific match to collecting on government accounts who responded to that process (and very ineffective with small businesses who didn’t want to be deluged with more documents). Sue was capable of tough conversations – making her a great fit for calling customers who were perpetually short on cash (something Jane was challenged by). I quickly found that my employees were happier, more productive and more successful when they collected on portfolios that matched their strengths.

As Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton tell us in their book Now, Discover Your Strengths, “The great organization must not only accommodate the fact that each employee is different, it must capitalize on these differences. It must watch for clues for each employee’s natural talents and then position and develop each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into bona fide strengths.” If you lead others – whether in a large, mid or small size business- are you clear on what each assignment requires? Are you aligning your employees to functions and assignments where they are strong? Do you let them make suggestions to change approaches to align to their strengths? (I highly recommend Marcus Buckingham and the Gallup Organization’s work to support you in better understanding these concepts.)

What if you are in business by yourself? Understanding what the business requires is one key element to hiring correctly or selecting the right entrepreneurial path. Many of the most successful one-person businesses outsource elements that are not their strengths to virtual assistants or other contractors who relish those tasks. You may think you can’t afford to do this, but the truth is that you may not be able to afford not doing so. Giving up what isn’t a strength allows you to focus on what is.

We will all sometimes have to handle tasks where we are not the most skilled. However, comprehending what our role requires and where our strengths lie is essential to satisfaction and productivity for ourselves and those we manage. If you or your employees are unhappy, unproductive or unsuccessful, the answer is often that there is a mismatch between how a job is designed and individual strengths. Either allow the job to be executed in a manner that aligns to individual strengths, delegate certain tasks or move to a different role.

Author's Bio: 

Ann Potts is an Executive Coach and Founder of Executive Performance Fuel. Ann teaches businesses to reinvent themselves with productivity tools and leadership talents that she mastered in the corporate world. Her extensive leadership experience and certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt means that she can teach businesses to find ways to do more in less time. Ann teaches people to reinvent themselves by showing them how to bring their unique gifts and strengths to the forefront in their work and lives.