Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Do it! Do it now!

The most expensive poster I've ever purchased.
Want to know how to get things done? Do them. Yeah, it's that simple.

If you're like me, though (and I feel sorry for you if you are), then you often feel like there's no better time to do those big, important things than "tomorrow."

There is no greater threat to getting things done than "tomorrow." I said "I'll do it tomorrow" for about thirty years, but I rarely did unless faced with the threat of painful financial or personal consequences, and even then, I could find a reason to put it off, whatever "it" was. You know what? Tomorrow always comes, and so does another one. And another one. And another one. There always seems to be an infinite series of tomorrows -- especially when you're young.

I've wanted to write a novel or two since I was fifteen years old. It's the one, single desire or motivation that I'd ever identified in my life. Everything else has been something like "I want to find meaning" or "Someday I'd like to travel the world." Blah, blah, blah. While I was searching for meaning and planning to plan to travel, I should have been putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, or whatever. Instead, I lived lavishly on a huge stash of tomorrows.

"I'll get started on that novel tomorrow." Of course, my timing was always horrible -- it always seemed like the next day was Friday, and the guys are having a going-away party for so-and-so, and the next thing I know, it's Monday and my job isn't to write crappy knock-offs of Stephen King novels (my high school fiction specialty).

Things are a little different now. I have no choice but to set up tasks and knock them down. I'm ever mindful of tomorrow, but now that remote date isn't a repository of future hopes and dreams. It's actual, real, precious and dwindling time. It's finite. I have no idea if I have more of it left than what I've already spent, but it sure doesn't feel like it. So now I USE the hell out of it.

I have a print-out on my wall just above my desk reminding me that the best time to get something done is right now. It says "DO IT NOW! DO IT ONLY ONCE!." I got it from an efficiency expert who came in once a month or so to remind me how much of a slacker I was. I won't tell you what I paid for this irritating reminder, but it was a LOT, and that little poster is probably the sum total of what he taught me. It was expensive as hell, but if you've had a lifetime habit of doing the opposite of that, sometimes you need to pay for a jump start on reversing the habit.

Following that advice ("Do it now!") has been the single greatest change in the business. The last three months or so of 2011 were more productive than the prior three years. Until about September or so, I'd PLANNED a great many things, but the endless pressing minutia of a moving business (responding to emails, scheduling jobs, assigning crews, buying equipment and, of course, actually DOING the jobs) took up 20 hours per day. Meanwhile, the website languished, processes and procedures never left my head, and nothing got done. But once I started DOING those things that needed to be done instead of planning to do them, that's when we turned a corner.

So, that's your advice for the day. For a lot of people, this is obvious, but for many of us out there wondering why things never change, it's life-changing. I think the sum total of all "guru" advice is this: Do. Do it now. Like any bit of wisdom, it's the simplest things we already know that are the most effective, true and profitable.

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