The way to get things done
I am sure that the challenge created by the gap between the things we think we’d like to achieve and what we actually achieve is one that many of us face. So it is always interesting, for me especially, to read or find out more about those who achieve traction in this space ie are able to execute.
I recently read the book, Making Ideas Happen : Overcoming the Obstacles between Vision and Reality, by Scott Belsky, the founder and Chief Executive of Behance. The book is definitely worth looking into especially if execution is an area you want to focus on, whether you’re a creative type or not. What I’d like to do here is outline the 10 ideas from this book that I believe are worth taking note of and drawing reference to, from time to time. What I’ve got below is my understanding and my take on these points.
1. 100 x 0 = 0. 50 x 2 = 100.
Spending all your time on that one thing but not going the whole hog and making it happen means nothing happens. But taking some of your ideas, and pushing them ahead, maybe even going as far as to put it out there (I have got to put this out there now or I never will. If I keep tweaking this, it will always be one step away from perfection yet never see daylight) will mean that you will achieve much more than ever before. That’s a powerful idea to make your dreams come through. No one wants their dreams to just stay dreams. Surely, we’d want to turn our dreams into reality. Right?
2. A relentless bias towards action pushes ideas forward.
What this showed me is that ideas are good, and we may have tons and tons of them. But what makes the difference is when you develop action around it. Action is what moves it from the land of possible into what’s real.
3. Anything that is actionable needs to be made personal.
If you want to get things done, don’t leave it to chance, don’t leave it to a community, a gathering. Put a name on it. Make that person accountable. Whoever that may be.
4. Taking and organising extensive notes is not really worth the effort.
We might get duped into thinking (at least that is what I thought at times as well) that taking notes, writing stuff down is getting things done. But it might not be. And it doesn’t always lead to the kind of action that generates results. Often, it does not lead to action and could actually interfere with any bias towards action.
5. When executing, you need to make a distinction between :-
i. action items – clear lists of things that you need to get done.
ii. reference material – notes that gives you the background/history/collateral around what you’re working on.
iii. backburner stuff – stuff to be actioned off but for a later time.
6. Urgent vs important.
You need to do both but you need to separate the two into lists. Keep this handy as a constant reference point to guide you in prioritising action.
7. The state of reactionary work flow.
This is the kind of work you do where you are merely going with the tide and where you work on what floats to the top of your pile. No proactive decision making here. It can masquerade and feel very much like work but it is not good. Instead of focusing on what’s important to you or what you feel you need to get done, you spend way too much time on staying afloat. Stop to pause and reflect and its best to start your day with this so that you are guided rather than pushed/pulled.
8. Big part of execution is persistence.
Keeping at it is key. Accepting failure as part of that journey and part of the learning curve is key.
9. Reduce the amount of insecurity work you do.
You know the stuff with no real outcome? Reading who’s tweeted or read your posts? Checking site stats? It takes only a few minutes each time but when done obsessively (because you don’t think you are obsessing and its only a matter of minutes really), there are two things at play. Firstly, it doesn’t move things forward. Secondly, it gets in the way and the flow of what you know you need to get done.
10. Develop a tolerance for ambiguity.
Not everything is clear and certain at the point you need it to be. Suffice it to say that sometimes, you need to act and make decisions in situations where things are unclear, maybe even hazy. And you may also find that at times, there is a clarity you arrive at, when things have come to pass. I think that when working in the creative sphere, or when embarking on innovative programmes or projects or when you feel you’re on the cutting edge, having that tolerance for ambiguity means that so much more in terms of what’s possible can be opened up for you….because you’ve allowed it to.