This weekend was our anniversary, so my wife and I went to Victoria, British Columbia to celebrate her not kicking me to the curb yet.

Victoria is a beautiful harbor town with a lot of history and tons to do, so naturally, it’s swarming with tourists from all over the world (including ourselves).

As we drank tea and looked at a bunch of flowers (because my suggestion of “finding a bar to watch the Seahawks preseason game” wasn’t “romantic” enough), I started paying attention to the other tourists.

Over 90% of the people wandering through the Butchart Gardens had cameras, iPhones, and iPads (my least favorite trend) in front of their face so they could take 8,000,000 pictures of plants they’d never look at again. Most of them weren’t even taking the time to make sure they were good pictures. They were just snapping randomly, screwing up foot traffic, and running into me.

One question kept coming up for me as I watched them: “What value is this adding to their experience?”

They’re not enjoying the cool or beautiful experience in front of them because they’re buried in their phone, and the quality of the photos they’re taking don’t translate into a good “memory” that they can revisit later…so what’s the point?

Over the last few days, I’ve been doing an exercise because of this. Every time I start a new activity – whether it’s at work or in my free time, I ask myself that same question.

“What value is this adding?”

I’ve been kind of amazed at how often I’m disappointed in my own response.

It’s easy to justify our activities at home. I watch TV to recharge and unwind. That has value. I play fantasy football to bond with my friends. I go to happy hour because all the cool kids are drinking, mom.

At work, we get inundated with tasks, requests, and responsibilities. There’s a constant stream of things to do…but what is the value they’re adding?

This exercise has helped me plan my day more effectively, and forced me to say “no” to things I’d normally take on. It opens new requests up to the criticism of other questions as well.

“How is this better than what we currently do?” or “What’s the end game here?”

If you can’t answer either of those, then it’s probably not worth doing.

Give it a shot. Ask yourself, right now, what value are you adding? Actually wait until you are done reading this post to ask that question…my ego can’t take it.