18 Dec Stop planning. Just do it.
Several years ago my boss at the time, Frank Palmer (of DDB Canada), handed our collective management team a book titled Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done*. Always a savvy businessman and mentor, Frank had started an informal book club to ensure our team was exposed to business books of merit throughout the year.
I’d like to tell you that I read that book and that it changed my professional life. It probably could have (and may still), but truthfully my “plan” to read the book didn’t come to fruition and the burden of seeing my now ironically-titled failure staring at me from my bedside table meant that I eventually took it back to the office to be safely stowed out of sight.
But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of planning and have been reflecting on my ability to execute on those plans. With my consultancy, Troubadour Creative, still in its first year, I’ve created endless lists of things to focus on: software to buy, blog post ideas, contacts to call, companies to target etc. Hours can go by as I consider and reconsider variables to my plans and models – many times my overly analytical self getting stuck in the weeds without a clear conclusion or action. Planning can be fun, as in the theoretical world every idea is a possibility to explore!
Basic organizational merit aside, planning can also be a trap. Spending too much of your time imagining the future instead of acting in the present will leave you feeling frustrated and your actual progress slow. What I’m learning instead is the power of momentum. How even the smallest step forward can create positive ripples. Action creates action, which in turn attracts more action. Creating the plan is only half of the bargain. The real grist is in working the plan.
So, in this time of reflection and “planning” and the creation of To-Do lists to ensure the triumphs of next year, I suggest you take a slightly different approach: Close your eyes and put on your best Olivia Pope wine-and-popcorn-soaked voice and ask yourself “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”.
This deceptively simple question is truly loaded (and really the only redeeming feature I found to justify watching the Scandal series). By asking yourself what end result you actually want, it can suddenly become exceedingly clear what to focus on and what actions to take. The noise fades away and the steps to your goal lay out in front of you – orderly, achievable and connected – as long as you take that first step. And that, sounds like a plan to me.
*Bossidy, Larry, and Charan, Ram. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York: Crown Business, 2002.
Why plan instead of living life? You worked it out ahead and put it behind.**
**In it Now, Night of the Shooting Stars, Rheostatics, 2001 Perimeter Records