Stop Talking, Start Doing

While visiting London a few years back, I had breakfast with Shaa Wasmund, the author of Stop Talking, Start Doing: A Kick in the Pants in 6 Parts, which at the time was the #1 best-selling business book in the UK and continued for 14 months in a row.

Shaa’s crazy — in the best way. In her life she’s run her own PR firm, launched one of the earliest social networking sites, and served as CEO of the UK’s #1 resource for small business, Smarta.com.

You would think that with all the ‘doing’ happening in Shaa’s life that she’d be like everyone else: overworked, overwrought, and stressed out.

Except, she isn’t any of those things.

That’s what so many “productive” people miss. Worrying about what comes next is always stressful. Throwing yourself into what you can do now is actually a relief.

Shaa recently released the Stop Talking, Start Doing Action Book, and I took it as an opportunity to revisit my notes from our initial meeting and her book, and synthesize them for you.

The Difference Between Initiative and Inviting Stress

What I find most remarkable about Shaa is her positive, fun-loving style — a style that defies the productivity stereotype of the overworked, overwrought and stressed out person trying to squeeze a little more into each day.

Many of us want to be productive. We want to ‘do.’ But the chase for productivity can have a dark side — more tasks, more communication, more stuff jammed into the 24-hour metronome of our lives.

Shaa’s message is simple and timely — plan a little, to be sure, but just do something.

You can revise your plans as needed once you figure out what lies beyond the horizon.

The only addition I’d make to Shaa’s title is to include, “…and More Outcomes.” This includes the fulfillment that comes when we ‘start doing’ the things that matter to us.

Our lives are full of plans. Especially as consultants, we want to be nearly perfect before starting a project. I understand, the more we plan the lower our risk of rejection from our peers and the broader public — at least that’s what we figure.

It takes real courage to stop talking, to stop making plans, and to start doing.

Stop Having Planning Sessions About How You Plan

The irony is that our clients pay us to help them plan, yet we fall into the trap ourselves. Companies tend to fall into the trap as well while seeking alignment, buy-in, and consensus–all worthy goals necessary for success in a complex, global business.

However, instead of focusing on what is possible, they get bogged down in preparing for the worst case, endlessly discussing their “process” without striving for results.

The trap isn’t necessarily over-planning, but rather spending an inordinate amount of time on the roles and responsibilities, the framework, the stakeholder groups, and how everything will be communicated — in short, creating a plan for a plan, having a talk about talking.

We get the work done because the billable clock ticking on our computer screens forces us to. But it results in too many diving catches at the end of a project. We’re harried and stressed and just thankful that we caught the ball.

Instead, if we started doing a little more every day we can enjoy more relaxed and productive yellow pad sessions where nuances are brought forward to optimize the ultimate deliverable.

Think about Apple. Outside of the well-publicized major product launches, they are constantly prototyping. In other words, they are always doing.

If something takes hold, then Apple turns it into a more substantial initiative — possibly even a process or product enhancement.

How To Stop Talking And Start Doing

So how do you take Shaa’s advice and start doing?

Well, you can create task lists in Excel, download special to-do list apps for our smart phones, and even use sophisticated tracking tools in Outlook to link to project plans, and then…wait a minute.

You just lost a whole day thinking about what you want to do without actually doing anything.

Instead of a deep dive planning session — which you only need periodically — you can measure a few important objectives, identify some things that need to get done, and then do them.

You can run hard, briefly enjoy the fruits of your labors, think a bit, and then do it again (that’s rinse and repeat, for you, cliché buffs).

My take away from that London breakfast with Shaa is that no matter how busy or successful you are, you still have plenty of opportunity to choose what to do, and to find the time to get it done.

Perhaps it’s time to stop talking and start doing.