What you gonna do? - Next Action Associates

“Just Do It” – Nike marketing slogan

I did a quick search on Amazon this morning and found more than a dozen books with the phrase “Do It Now” in the title. These are books on eliminating procrastination, increasing effectiveness, and getting more done.

The implied philosophy is: Get going. Start doing. That way lies success. Get Busy.

And this is where 21st century life makes things tricky. Many of us are so overwhelmed with things calling for our attention that we lack the confidence that we’re consistently engaged in the right things. 

Want proof? Check and see how many of the apps on your smartphone have red circles with numbers on them. Behind every one of those numbers is a little voice saying: “Deal with me! Deal with me now!” With so many inputs and distractions in our lives, engaging with any one of them can seem to tick the box that says “I’m busy. I’m doing something. I’m OK.”

But if we’re interested in ‘black belt’ productivity, once we’ve decided to get going, we’re faced with a key question: What would be the best focus for my attention right now? What does optimally busy mean for me? What should I do next?

As I thought about this, what struck me about the phrase “Do It Now” is that it doesn’t seem very, well, humane. It implies that you should be ready to work on ‘It’ now, regardless of your situation, regardless of your energy levels, regardless of how mentally sharp you’re feeling. “Do It Now” doesn’t leave space for you.

This week is my semi-annual jazz retreat, and last night on the way home it occurred to me that I needed to write this blog. I had been rehearsing most of the day yesterday, and then played a concert in the evening. I’m driving home at 11pm, still buzzing from the music, but intellectually I’m toast. And then I remember the blog.

Do It Now? I don’t think so. Not at 70 miles per hour on the motorway when I barely have two brain cells left to rub together. If I’d pulled the car over at that moment and taken out the laptop to start writing, the quality of the product would have been severely lacking.

So the next time you’re faced with the what-do-I-do-now question, consider your situation. What is your mental state like? How energetic are you feeling? Are you ready for deep mental engagement in something or would watering the plants be a better choice?

Picking the right ‘It’ needs to leave some room for you too.



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