“Do not wait to strike until the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”—William Buell Sprague, 19th Century American clergyman.
One theme I’ve emphasized repeatedly in my writings is that “busy” doesn’t necessarily mean “productive.” Just because you’re staying busy doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing anything important. Checking 30 tiny tasks off your to-do list may not prove nearly as significant (or as profitable) as completing one high-priority project.
To boost your productivity, work hard and constantly on the high-priority tasks that matter the most. ( Multilevel marketers are fond of the term “massive action.” I find this a handy synonym for good, productive work, though some observers disparage the term, assuming it refers only to staying busy, rather than staying busy with intent. I see this as an over-simplification based on false assumptions.
The naysayers seem to assume you take massive action without planning ahead. That’s like assuming a traveler will just take off on a long trip without planning the route, putting gas in the car, and checking the oil and tire pressure. While some people really are this spontaneous, smart travelers always take a few moments to prepare before they start driving. Action should take place only after you’ve decided what target to hit and how. You do have to take action, though; sitting around and expecting the universe to reward you for happy thoughts won’t work.
Of course, you still have daily “housekeeping” tasks that must be done, including handling email and attending meetings, especially if you can’t delegate everything else at this point in your career. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take massive action on what’s most important once you get the small tasks out of the way or even in between.
Here are five reasons to take massive action in your work life:
1. To forestall the paralysis of analysis. Despite the old saying, knowledge isn’t power until it’s ignited with action. Sit and think too long, and you’ll never complete anything. Once you decide to do something and have enough ducks in a row, just do it. Handle the details on the fly. Even if they seem a bit sketchy when you begin, you can flesh them out as you go. The final result may not be perfect, but at least it will be done. If necessary, you can fix it later.
2. The more action you take, the more your performance will improve. Most of us get better at our work as we put in more time; raw talent is wonderful, but long-term practice beats it every time. As long as you keep learning as you go, your work will become easier, and you’ll get better at it. When I first began writing these blogs, it sometimes took a day to complete one to my satisfaction. Now I can draft one in an hour or so.
3. It brings you closer to achieving your goals. You do have goals, don’t you? That’s pretty basic to any career; so unlike some people, I’ll assume you have at least some basic objectives set, ideally in alignment with your organization’s goals. At the very least, you can take their goals as your own, then, after reflection, take off toward them in the most effective way you know how.
4. It commits you to the task. An old saying advises, “Once begun, half done.” I first saw this on a motivational poster in elementary school, and it’s stuck with me all the years since. Sometimes, you just need to get momentum. Once you’ve begun a task, you’ve committed yourself. If you don’t continue, you’ve wasted that time and effort. This motivates most of us to carry on and finish what we start.
5. Even when you fail, you learn something. The best way never to fail is never to do anything. Now, I’m not one of those people who believes failure automatically guarantees later success, but the more work you do and the more you learn along the way, the more likely you’ll succeed. The people who experience the most successes are typically those who take the most action… but they also fail more often than the rest of us. No one in Major League Baseball struck out more than Babe Ruth—but his home run record stood for decades.
Move it, Move It, Move It
I like the advice of the Lemur King in the movie Madagascar: you’ve got to move it, move it, move it! Motion alone won’t make you a success, but if you get your priorities straight and take massive action on what truly matters, your productivity will take off like a rocket.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.