The Danger of Being a Do-er
Are you a do-er? Someone who likes getting things done, achieving goals, and being busy? And when someone makes a good suggestion or asks you to take on a task, do you like to jump on it and get going right away?
My husband observed that about me last week, and boy was I annoyed (which is a sure sign he’s right!). Instead, I fancied myself to be a strategic thinker.
But on reflection, my behavior is definitely do-er, through and through. Not only do I get a sense of accomplishment from getting things done, it’s even joyful for me.
But somehow, I saw it as a negative. I guess we always want the things we don’t have. And as Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member”.
My husband went on to explain that it’s great that I’m a do-er. The world needs people who get things done rather than only talk about it without taking action.
While I know he’s right about that too, I’m also aware of the downsides of being a do-er.
In my experience, there are at least three dangers for us do-ers.
Busy doing the wrong things
The first is that I like to be busy doing things. But are they the right things? Am I expending a lot of energy splashing around but not getting to the other side of the pool? Or worse yet, running really fast but in the wrong direction?
One of the CEOs in my Idea Enterprise group advises people to adopt the “ready, fire, aim” approach rather than “ready, aim, aim” and never taking action.
But we do-ers are already on the “ready, fire, aim” course. The problem is, you can get pretty far down the road before you wake up one day and wonder how you got here, and whether it was worth it.
Do-ers need to guard against being like moles who dig away 24×7 and find themselves at the center of the earth rather than going across the continent as intended.
True, sometimes you can’t know if something was worth it until you’ve done it. But still it’s useful to check in to see if you’re in the right zip code during the journey. It’s good to make sure you’re directionally correct, and not wait a decade or two before evaluating.
The stress of “what’s next?”
The second danger is stress and anxiety. It’s nerve wracking when you’re not sure of what to do next, especially when you’re worried whether you’re doing the right things.
And when opportunities come up that aren’t on your list of things to do, it’s stressful having to figure out on the spot whether to drop everything and take on that new project, or stick to the original one.
A life of regret
And this leads to the third danger, which is having a busy life doing what others have put on your plate, then looking back and regretting how you’ve spent your time and energy.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, David Letterman talks about looking back at his career as a hyper successful talk show host and wonders, at the age of 69, whether that was enough. He seems to conclude that it wasn’t, saying, “I’m a little embarrassed that, for 33 years, it was the laser focus of my life… It took a lot of energy, and it probably would have been better expended elsewhere. Now it just seems like, really, that’s what you did?”
The way forward for do-ers
If you’re a do-er too (or know someone who is), then I want to share a great way forward. It’s called having a game plan.
Create your Game Plan
What I mean by this is a written plan that goes beyond just your daily “to do” list. I’ve recently put mine together based on one I’ve used successfully with my clients.
It starts with your vision of a successful life, then links back to interim milestones you need to reach for your vision to be true, and then identifies a few priorities for the next 90 days along with the associated specific action items. Anything that doesn’t fit with the 90-day priorities goes into a separate “not now” list.
Refer to the Game Plan
The benefit of that game plan is to help you decide what to do now versus later versus not at all. That’s why it’s important to have it in writing and in a place where you can refer to it regularly.
For me, having that written guide has been essential, as I’ve had several new proposals come my way in the last month.
Historically, I would say “yes” to all of them because they’re all great projects. Then I would suffer because my efforts would be spread across too many things, many of which had nothing to do with the most important things I want to accomplish.
Now I have a document on my desk that I can refer to to ensure I'm making the right decisions on what to say “yes” to and what to turn down. Or at least say, “not now”.
Thanks to referring to my game plan, I’ve discovered that two of the new proposals don’t deliver on either of my top priorities for the next 90 days. As a result, I’ve put them onto the “not now” list and given an answer swiftly to the proposers. I’m sure this will go a long way toward preserving my relationships with them as well.
Your game plan helps you create a really useful to do list that represents your most important priorities. It helps you make conscious choices so you know why you’re doing some things and not other things.
All you have to do is refer to it.
Refresh it regularly
For me, this one-page game plan is a living document that I refresh regularly. I recommend that you do the same. As things change, it’s important to amend the document. And when the 90 days are almost up, it’s time to review what you want to prioritize for the next 90 days.
As I’ve become clearer on my priorities, I’ve moved more into the “not now” category so I can actually accomplish the few most important ones. For do-ers, this “not now” category is a life saver.
Otherwise, it would be all too easy to get distracted and go off on a tangent that makes you miss the main point. It’s like those cooking competitions where a chef creates the perfect dessert, but neglects to have the main course ready at the buzzer.
When you have your game plan, you can go forth with confidence knowing that you’re working on the right things. Over time, you will look back and feel proud that you’ve accomplished what matters most to you. You will live a no regrets life. What more can we ask?
So if you’re a do-er, schedule time to put together your game plan so you can stay on purpose. And if you know and care about someone who is a do-er, show them this blog post so they can enjoy a wonderful no regrets life too!
Leave a comment and let me know your next steps for creating or executing on your game plan.