Provision #213: Get Things Done

Laser Provision

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” The point of this Provision is not to encourage you to do sloppy work but to get things done. Finish things and move on, even if they’re not perfect. In the scope of your life, and the history of the world, you’ll be glad you did.

LifeTrek Provision

With the selection of a host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics and the joyous celebrations on the streets of Beijing, I was reminded of what a unique symbol and incomparable venue the Olympics have become for rewarding athletic excellence. Nothing else comes close as a truly global cultural phenomenon. I treasure the Olympics and all they represent, notwithstanding the politics and the scandals.

Some of you may remember the sight of Derek Redmond, a sprinter from Britain, during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. If so, you remember him not for finishing first but for finishing last. Redmond was running in the men’s 400-meter semifinals when his hamstring popped and he fell to the ground in pain. After all that training, his bid to win Olympic Gold was over in an instant.

But Redmond didn’t stay on the ground. He got up and began hopping toward the finish line. Before long a man came out to join him offering consolation and support. The man was Redmond’s father, who had sacrificed much to get his son to the games.  Together, father and son walked across the finish line five minutes later with sixty thousand people giving them a standing ovation. Later, when asked about his decision to hop on, Redmond commented, “I wasn’t going to let an injury keep me from finishing.”

There’s a lesson there, expressed equally well by the philosopher Albert Camus when he wrote, “I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.”

Successful people get things done. They finish what they start, either by doing it themselves or by delegating it to others. They don’t just let things hang around on a perpetual “to do” list. They appreciate the wisdom in the curious sounding maxim: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” Redmond understood this wisdom as he hobbled across the finish line. Do you?

I can hear the perfectionists objecting, “No, no, no. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doingwell.” Unfortunately, in the name of “doing things well” a lot of things never get done at all • making procrastination one of the top coaching projects.

People call LifeTrek to get a handle on the overwhelming demands of life and work. Often there is a specific project that’s not getting done. We call that a “toleration.” Tolerations represent an enormous energy drain. They sap our creativity as well as our power to move forward.  Until they get handled, tolerations bring us down. They certainly leave no room for going places.

Our coaches work with people on the 3 D’s: Do It, Delegate It, or Dump It. We assist people to do this quickly and effectively. Here are a few simple strategies:

1. Develop a List of What Needs Doing. Many people have a “to do” list that they keep only in their minds. Writing things down is a way of clearing that mental space and making the list manageable.

2. Prioritize the List. Don’t just focus on the urgent. This can keep you in the state of overwhelm. Instead, focus on the following question: “Which of these projects • once complete • will produce the greatest positive good in my life?” This question brings out your values, central concerns, and life trajectory. It can make a huge difference in getting things done.

3. Group Together Related Activities. There’s no point trying to get the ceiling painted and your book written at the same time. But you may well want to work on the ceiling and the garage roof at the same time. Grouping together related activities not only saves time, it creates time.

4. Divide Big Tasks into Smaller Steps. Breaking down big tasks into smaller steps is the essence of project management. There’s no way to eat an elephant other than one bite at a time. Most big tasks can be broken down into smaller steps. Once you have the components, you will have increased your ability to get things done.

5. Do One Thing at a Time. Distraction and procrastination go hand in hand. We sit down to do one thing and before we know it we’re doing something else. Jumping from one unfinished task to another unfinished task is asking for trouble.

6. Finish Things Fully. Too often people take projects to 95% completion. That’s how the “to do” lists got so overwhelming in the first place. We never really finish anything. We just keep adding to the list. “Do It, Delegate It, or Dump It” assumes 100% completion. Better to finish one thing than to start several things.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” I’m not encouraging you to do sloppy work but to get things done. Finish things and move on, even if they’re not perfect. In the scope of your life, and the history of the world, you’ll be glad you did.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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