Stop Lying About “Going to Work”

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There’s a guy at my gym whom I call Burl. Not because he’s burly, like you’d expect a gym regular to be, but because he looks like Burl Ives. (For you younger readers, Burl Ives was a rotund, congenial-looking man, whom you may know as the voice of Frosty the Snowman. He was not known for his rock-hard abs.) Burl is there every morning, sitting on an exercise bike, watching TV. Not actually exercising, mind you. I’ve never seen him so much as pedal his bike. He just sits there, watching TV.

He didn't pedal

Burl Ives: He didn’t pedal

Now, here’s the thing. I’ll bet you that every morning, he tells his friends and family that he’s “going to the gym.” Which is technically true, but not really legitimate.

Kind of like when the rest of us tell our friends and family that we’re “going to work.”

Most of the time, we’re doing nothing of the kind. Oh, to be sure, we’re going to a “place of work,” but we’re not really going to “work.” Instead, we’re going to spend several hours catching up on e-mails, browsing the Internet (and could somebody please tell me why “Internet” is capitalized?), and chatting with our colleagues about the final episode of Lost. In an eight-hour day, we maybe put in an hour and a half of actual work.

Why is this? I think it’s because very few of us have a game plan for the day. We wander in and just kind of see what happens, and then we react to it. A lot of us run our businesses like that as well, and then we wonder why we’re not further along, and why we can’t seem to stay ahead of the competition.

The solution, of course, is simple—and you’ve probably heard it before. Each afternoon, before you leave the office (and yes, I know that not everybody works in an office, smartypants; it’s people like you who cause all the trouble), write down the six most important things you have to do the following day. (And no, “make appointment to have dog groomed” doesn’t count. I’m talking about six things that will actually make a positive difference in your business.) Then, rank them in order. When you get to work (real work) the next morning, start on your most important task, and don’t move on until you’ve finished it. Then, go down the list, finishing as many items on your list as possible.

See, I told you you’ve heard it before. This time, though, I’d like you to actually do it. Make it a habit.

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney sat down to write a song, they actually wrote a song. They didn’t talk about writing a song; they did it. To bring this full circle, if Lennon and McCartney were Burl, they’d actually be pedaling the bike.

Your job for tomorrow: Establish a game plan. Then pedal the damn bike!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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