on not getting things done


When someone suggests a new project to me, I usually leap straight to trying to figure out how to do it — what steps, tasks, people, technology will be required. I have been known to make decisions based on what I thought was possible. 

I’ve been privileged to be included in a leadership training program at work. We’ve been reading a range of articles from different sources and I was really challenged by one entitled The Answer to ‘How?’ is Yes by Peter Block It urged me not to make decisions about whether to do something (or setting priorities) on the basis of whether it’s possible or not, but rather to decide whether I think it’s worth doing first, and then figure out how to make it happen. He states (emphasis is original):

The question How? not only expresses doubt about whether we know enough and are enough; it also affirms the belief that what works is the defining question, a major source of our identity. The question declares that we, as a culture, and I as a human being, are fundamentally about getting things done. If something has no utility, if it does not work, then we consider that a limitation. In fact, talk, dreams, reflections, feelings and other aspects of who we are are considered lost production in many organisations.

Now, this is not really an argument against the question How? Rather it is an argument that there are more important questions, and How? should be asked later rather than sooner. We are at times so eager to get practical right away that we set limits on ourselves. We become imprisoned in our belief that we don’t know how and therefore need to keep asking the question. Also, in our search for tools, we become what we seek: a tool.

If something is really worth doing then, even if you don’t know how to do it yet, it’s probably worth figuring out how. Don’t let the limits of what you currently imagine possible stop you from making decisions to do things you believe are truly valuable.


  1. This post brought to mind the visionary Robert Kennedy

    “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

  2. Yeah, it’s not so much about ‘not getting things done’, as ‘getting super unbelievable things done’. I found this post to be quietly inspiring. Thanks, Nat!

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