A client of mine recently inaugurated a set of 2008 initiatives wrapped around 3 high impact areas. Knowing the leadership of that company very well I find myself worried that somehow this will get turned into working harder and longer hours--they already work exceedingly hard and incredibly long hours because of how much they (and I, for that matter) care about the company. In this case, importance becomes urgency becomes working harder.
This got me to thinking about the fact that it's not about working harder--in very few cased do I see reasonably successful people who don't already work very hard. And I'm not going to say it's about working smarter (which generally means cramming more into a day through false efficiencies--essentially another form of working harder); this makes me want to hurl!
The real issue at hand is focus--doing a few, highly impactful things really well rather than doing a bunch of things tolerably. Most of us are deathly afraid of saying "No" or of taking something off our list. We don't unsubscribe to email newsletters. We don't tell people we can't be there. We don't eliminate--we expand our commitments on a regular basis. The result is diffusion, confusion, and overall frustration.
Strategy is not coming up with a list of initiatives (the more the better) and then trying to do them all. Strategy is considering all the things that you could do and then reducing that list to the fewest possible things that you must do. It's all about focus. At a company level and at a personal level, stop and ask yourself about your sense of focus.