Getting Things Done Until You're Dead

One thing that has always perplexed me is the obsession some people seem to have with wanting to get things done. The GTD craze got it's start with David Allen Getting Things Done. Since that point the Internet is plagued with tips on how you can do more crap all day long everyday.

I was reading a humor blog I enjoy called The Deep Friar. Although it's a humor blog, there's probably more in there that offers good and sensible advice than you will see on the majority of supposed personal development sites. One example of how humor - He's Canadian, so I suppose it should be humour - combines with nuggets of good advice is his how not to avoid procrastination.

He opens with the hypothetical that something that needs to be done, and asks what the consequences are if it do4es not get done.
If there’s an unpleasant task ahead, ask yourself these questions: If I don’t do this, will anyone die or get hurt? Will it jeopardize someones job? Will it ruin a friendship? Will it bankrupt me? If the answer is “NO”, then chill out, have a beer, and don’t worry about it.

Think about this for a second. This is sage advice. So many people put emphasis on running their lives on a schedule. They are convinced that what they really need is to get more done, more efficiently. Then they'll be happy. Then everything will fall into place and the world will be the frutopia it was intended to be.

This is so completely wrong. Life is not about getting more done, faster. That's not what will make you happy. That will not solve all your dreary feelings that things are just not right somehow. The fact is that if you are having a great deal of difficulty "getting things done" you're probably doing the wrong things in the first place.

The biggest issue you are most likely to need to sort out for yourself is acceptance. Accept that there are things you suck at. Accept that there are tasks you don't merely dislike, but even resent doing. Accept that the rest of the world is not incompetent and may well do it just fine if you let your illusion of control slip from your fingers.

Outsourcing and Delegating

Most likely, if you can outsource the task, or delegate the responsibility to someone else, it will get done just fine. If you attempt to micromanage the process, you will probably find yourself frustrated, but if you simply put your trust in the person to be a competent individual, they will most likely reach the proper result just the same as you would.

For whatever reason, most people seem to have no issues at all with letting certain things be done by other people. This can vary from one person to the next, of course. Some people are just control freaks that think nothing will ever be done right if it's not done by them.

One thing that gets on my nerves is when people with school age children complaining that their house is a mess and they can't keep up with all the mess and clutter claim that it is the fault of the children that their home is bordering on being declared a toxic waste dump. They have the perfect little helpers to delegate responsibility of picking things up, vaccuming, doing dishes, laundry, and various other tasks. Yet, instead, they let their children have the run of the household, and teach them no responsibility. Teach your children to clean up. Give them chores. You'll be getting things done in no time, instead of claiming you don't have enough time to get things done.

My Dad owns a business. He suffers from micromanagement syndrome. In fact, I'm fairly certain that if he was more willing to trust people to do things correctly, he could conceivably have grown his business somewhere between 5 and 10 times the size it is. He doesn't trust people to do things. He's a micromanager.

One time he got into a bind and had no one to fill in for him on a scheduling mix up. The real reason this happened is because he never hired someone to do the work in the first place. What he needed done should not have been his job in the first place. He should have been business owner, and someone else should have been event coordinator, but that is not his way. He won't trust anyone to take over, so he's stuck with one event at a time, because he can't be in two, or three, or ten places at once.

So, I filled in for him. Believe me, this took a lot from both of us for this to be agreed to. He gave me the instructions on what needed to be done, and it was amazing just how little faith he had in my abilities. I am his own son. I am of slightly above average intelligence. I have worked for him in the past. Not as the big chief, but I am familiar with the events he runs.

So, the big day came, and I was the boss for the event. I had my 9 year old step-daughter do one of the easier jobs for the day. She loved it. I loved that it was one less thing to round up a volunteer to do. She did great. The event went off just fine. No problems at all. I totally did NOT do things the way my Dad would have, but the end result was indisputably the desired outcome.

Later, I told my Dad about how it went and he told me that there is no way in Hell, not now, not ever, he would have trusted a 9 year old with "such an important job." It may have been important, but it was also EASY. If you have a little faith, people will pull through. Things will be okay.


Chances are that if you're really truly having a hard time getting through some sort of task, you basically just suck at it. That's okay. See the previous tip. Get someone else to do it for you. If buying the help with money is not an option in your current financial situation, then perhaps you could barter or trade for someone's service. Whether it's a job at work, or something you need done at home, there must be something that you don't suck at. Find someone to trade jobs with. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Then you can spend your time doing things you are good at and let someone else do the drudge work for you. In the meantime, you are doing what they consider to be drudge work. Everyone wins.

Do something else entirely

If you are having a hard time keeping up with the things you need to get done at work, you are most likely in the wrong job. Face it. There are really only three reasons you aren't getting your work done.
* You suck at it.
* You hate your job
* You're good at your job, and don't hate it, but everyone else sucks, or you're company is understaffed. This is the syndrome of being the only competent worker in a sea of worthless coworkers.

The first two are strong indications that you need to start looking for a new career. The third may be solved with a confrontation with your supervisor. You can say, "look, I know everyone else sucks at their job, and I'm the only one you trust to do things. I may be the only competent employee, but I'm still only ONE competent employee, and it's just more on my plate than I can handle." Or maybe you need to look elsewhere for employment where the management knows how to hire worthwhile people.

There are plenty of occasions throughout my work history that I have said to my boss that something simply will not get done that day. There are plenty of times that I have even said "did you tell (whomever) to go fuck themselves?" The answer was usually "Yes."

So you see, the issue isn't so much that you need to be getting things done, as it is that you need to accept what you are good at, what you enjoy, and what other ways you could do things. Look for better ways to use your time. Look for employment that better uses your skills and ambitions. Look for ways to enjoy your life.

The title I chose was actually a tribute to one of Dave Barry's books, Stay fit and healthy until you're dead. I think it embodies the senselessness of "getting things done." If you don't enjoy your life, and enjoy the journey, then what exactly is the point? And to get back to Friar's questions, what really will be the consequences if you don't Get things done?


  1. I'm actually quite outraged by this whole blog (and by saying this, I'm almost willing to bet that this comment will not make it to being posted).
    For example... Steve's article helps to encourage self-discipline and combat laziness. What good does this 'article' do? It's completely unmotivating and unhelpful.

    I think the owner of this blog is just jealous of Steve Pavlina's helpful and often original advice, and is trying to big him/herself up by being spiteful. I'm willing to bet you watch Fox News, too?

    Thought so.

  2. Oh wow! It actually posted. Kudos.