The Downside of Claiming “Done”

I’ve been seeing some posts going around lately about an inspirational essay written by a guy who said “done” is a magical word that can cause all sorts of happiness in you and those around you.

I’m simplifying. I should look-up the original essay and provide a link – sorry, just wanted to get these ideas out now.

“Done” is a great feeling – sure. Heck, I’ve been doing the “Getting Things Done” methodology in various forms since around 2005 or 2006. It’s good to feel progress and be able to point to a specific result that ensures you aren’t just kidding yourself.

But… in the hapless world of everything moving quicker than anyone can perceive… it’s a little too easy to claim “done” when in fact you are just frustrated with the challenge and don’t want to go on.

It’s hard to get to done. Harder than many people realize. And, of course it’s a murky territory because there can be all sorts of opinions about what “done” means.

But it’s easy to say you are done when you really should still be working on the thing. Many people won’t notice a premature “I’m done” simply because they are so caught-up in their own mess that they have no time or mental space to think about the mess you are working on. Maybe they’re just happy to know that somebody in this crazy world is done with something, so they’re happy to put their stamp of approval on what you said you did.

Next time you say you’re done, try to look at it from the perspective of someone who has all the time in the world to work on the thing. Would that person really come to the same conclusion that you just did?

Is there a work life balance?

Fading Team

I recently started reading yet another of those books that seeks to tell you how to get the most out of life, how to tap in to your best inner talents.

How to get to the end of your days with no regrets.

It’s called Die Empty.

I’ve always been a fan of personal productivity books. They help me to think and re-think about how I am approaching my life and work. Many of them are written with a very personal perspective, as if their primary purpose is to lead to great life fulfillment for the individual.

But our best professional work comes when there is a lot of consistency and synergy between both our personal goals and our professional goals. For the most successful among us, there always seems to be little or no separation between the two. Top-tier politicians, executives of small and large companies, movie stars – all of these folks always seem to live and breathe their best work in every facet of their life.

But for the “lower levels” – the folks at middle management, in entry-level positions, etc… these folks tend to fall into two camps.

  • Either they seek to maintain as much distance as possible between their work and personal lives – always leaving the office promptly at 5pm.
  • Or, they dive so deeply into their work that it completely replaces their personal life.

Neither of these are healthy attitudes toward work.

Yeah, there are gradients in between. But what I’m really trying to focus on here is that wide gap between folks who work because they have to vs. folks who have found ways to work professionally that complement and enhance in magical ways their own personal goals and achievements.

I haven’t gotten very far yet into Die Empty. I know so far that the overall message intends to be that you should let your best self out onto the world every day and in every way. But I wonder whether it will also talk much about how this relates to businesses.

Not only is it a good thing when employees and managers can find a lot of personal fulfillment in their work (i.e., their best self that they are supposed to be emptying onto the world can be expressed to achieve their professional goals as well as their personal goals), but also the fundamental principle of “die empty” is a great one for the business itself to embrace.

Not that you ever actually want your business to die – in the best case it will last longer than any of its original founders. But wouldn’t it be great if a business could approach each work day as if it were its last? Not meaning to take risks that will drive it off a cliff, but simply to ensure that the company embraces boldness, does not imagine greater risk than there really is, and empties its best self onto the world during every day of commerce.

I’ve got a lot of books on my shelf right now (well, actually – on my Kindle app). So it may take me a while to get through this book. But I’ll try to spend some time on this blog in the near future talking more about this topic.

The best lessons we learn for ourselves about achieving our dreams and goals are surely important lessons also for our businesses and professional selves to learn!

How to have effective meetings, if meetings are still your thing

Business Meeting Flat Illustration

Maybe you’re on-board with meetings.

Maybe you are not.

You may think I’m some sort of renegade after reading the title of this post.

But I’m not.

There are all sorts of meetings, obviously. And there are all sorts of goals for those meetings, people in those meetings, and outcomes from those meetings. Personally, I think meetings are awesome. They are:

  • A chance to collaborate
  • A chance to get all the right people together for a brief instant to make a decision
  • A chance to be social (yes, being social is important to your business)

But nowadays if you are a “forward-thinker” in the world of office politics it seems like you’re supposed to think of meetings as something more negative. And the truth is, meetings often are.

But that’s your fault.

Yes, it’s you

If the meeting sucks, look around you and figure out who at the meeting made it that way. Often the answer is:

All of you did.

And that sucks, right? A bunch of people got together to do something good (or, oftentimes simply because they had no idea what else to do about the project except to have a meeting), and then the meeting just kind of rambled around the problem. Lots of “work” got done, but none of it got you any closer to the goal.

And, often, there’s still no agreement about what the goal is.

So where’s the problem?

Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s the guy sitting next to you, maybe it’s the fact that all you can think about while sitting in the meeting is all the work waiting back at your desk that you aren’t getting to.

All of these things are problems.

So what do you do?

Just end it

No, don’t be rude in the meeting. Don’t:

  • Walk out
  • Ambush the meeting
  • or, Belittle the priorities that your co-workers are invested in

Don’t do any of those things.

But…

… don’t buy into anything that you know isn’t working.

… don’t continue down paths that don’t work.

Be mindful

Think about why you are there, and what you can gain, right now, from working with these people. Don’t stomp all over the meeting but also don’t coddle the meeting so much that nobody’s goals get met.

Improve the meeting…

… using your own best skills and experience.

That’s how you have an effective meeting.