Box of Crayons Blog


The Fantasy of Getting It All Done

I bet you’re thinking…

If I just work faster…

If I just get better at GTD or Inbox Zero or…

If I just find the right productivity guru

If I just find the right app for my to do list

If I just get on top of my email…

If I just get up a little earlier…

If I just work a little later…

If I just work a little longer…

… I’ll get on top of this thing called life. I’ll stop the overwhelm.

Surely I’m not alone wrestling with the fantasy that I can somehow do all the stuff that’s expected of me? That all I need do is fine-tune the machine that is me, and I’ll up my processing speed and get through it all?

Building castles

Perhaps you’ve been down the beach, and with your kids you’re making a sandcastle by the sea, digging a deep hole.

At a certain point you hit ocean level. The water starts filling up the hole. Part of you thinks this:

If I just dig a little faster, I’ll get ahead of it.

But the ocean always wins.

So too with your Good Work. There’s always more of it than you can get done. You don’t win this game by getting more efficient.

Time to ask some big questions

At this time of the year, you just might be in “what the heck is happening in 2013” mode. What if you started by admitting that doing more faster wasn’t going to be the unspoken assumption? What if you asked yourself?

If there was one Great Work Project to do this year, what would it be?
And what would it mean to fully commit to it?

What are the obvious things to cut out and stop doing?

What do I love to do – and will say No to anyway?

What’s the thing you’re doing out of habit,
ancient momentum, unthinking commitment?

With whom do I need to have the tough conversation,
to let them know I won’t be doing what they hoped I’d be doing?
(Other than yourself, of course.)

What will I reluctantly hand over to someone else to do?

What will be different in how I invest in looking after myself:
more exercise. more sleep, more people-I-love time?

Let me know which of these questions feels most useful to you. Most challenging too. And what question would you add to the list?


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4 Responses to The Fantasy of Getting It All Done

  • Pingback: The Fantasy of Getting It All Done | Time Management Magazine

  • Brian

    Hi Michael,
    Great post. The question that stands out to me is: “What do I love to do – and will say no to anyway?” I think I may have had a different interpretation of the question than you intended, but here’s what it says to me: How much Great Work will I be saying No to if I continue to try to say Yes to all the Good Work?

    We make choices every day about how we are going to spend our time. Your questions are really useful for examining the choices we’re making. Thanks!

  • Gary Winters

    Thanks for an interesting series of questions to ponder as the year winds down. I think the one that strikes me the most is “If there was one Great Work Project to do this year, what would it be? And what would it mean to fully commit to it?” I love writing and I’m already working steadily toward finishing my fifth book. I think my “Great Work Project” is simply to continue to write, to work on additional books and to get back into writing blogs about organizational development. I’ve been a management/leadership development consultant for over 30 years, which I love, but I’d like to morph from being a consultant who writes to a writer who consults.

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