If you are starting something you are very aware of the feeling of being overwhelmed. Every day you are confronted with a to-do list that can’t even reasonably be completed by the time you turn off your night-light. We further exacerbate that problem by engaging in activities that have no material impact on the business.
In our data-driven startup culture today, the phrase “vanity metrics” has emerged as an actionable insight that can change the direction of your company. Vanity metrics are the types of data we gather and report on that are supposed to represent progress but actually have no relationship to the outcome of the project or company.
The word vanity in this phrase means that we think they are important but they are not. One example is the number of page views our website receives over a period of time. If our site sells widgets online then the only metric that counts is the number of widgets sold online. There are many ways to artificially increase the number of page views but if none of them result in the sale of a widget then increased page views is not to be celebrated and can be thought of as a vanity metric.
Vanity Activities represents a similar notion. Every day we work on various tasks that have no bearing on the outcome or goals of the company. Over time we somehow have rationalized those activities as progress. Regardless of whether this is you or someone on your team, vanity activities creep into the business and have a real negative impact.