Vanity Work

Jun 29, 2016
2 minutes read

Most Startups die through self inflicted wounds. They misjudge the market, don’t execute fast enough, blow up because of personal issues or simply don’t have the skill to build the product or company they are after.

One of the more destructive issues I’ve seen while working in Startups is Vanity. While Vanity metrics have been discussed for a number of years, I’ve found Vanity Work to be at least equally destructive.

Vanity Work for me is work that makes you feel busy, but doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Its the difference between jumping up and down frantically in one place and actually running towards your goal. Both take energy and both make you feel tired, but only one accomplishes reaching your goal.

Too often we get caught up in the feeling of busyness for busyness’s sake. We like to finish tasks, ship new things and generally just get shit done. Too often though getting shit done overshadows how important this task actually is and if its the most critical task at this point.

We all have our particular interests and our areas of expertise, but those are often not what should have the highest priority right now, especially as founders or managers in a Startup. Especially the first time you’re building or working in a startup its very hard to judge this priority and remove yourself from tasks, discussions or situations where your contribution isn’t needed. Then you can use that time to be able to focus on what should be your highest priority.

And I’ve been as guilty as anyone on misjudging priorities and focusing my time on the wrong things. I’m angry every time I catch myself as I’m not just not meeting my goals, but I’m actively letting my team down.

So lets just remove Vanity from our Startup Playbook. Lets be the most critical judges of our own work, lets evaluate if we’re actually being productive or just feel busy and if we’re actively helping our team with our actions. Or if we’re just doing stuff because it feels nice and interesting.

Then we can be truly productive.

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