A Philosopher's Blog

Getting Things Done

Posted in Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on August 24, 2011
Character co-created by Will Eisner. Image fro...

Mr. Effective?

While philosophers are often cast as the sort of fine folks who achieve nothing, I have a modest reputation as a person who gets things done. When I was in high school, I briefly picked up the nickname “Mr. Effective” because of this. While it was intended to mock me, it actually sounded pretty cool-I can imagine a super hero (or villain) with that name.

When I was an undergraduate, I also had the annoying habit of getting things done and this continued in graduate school. One of my professors still talks about the time I turned in a draft for a paper before the semester had even started. When I became a professor,  I still stuck with my ways and created anew a reputation for getting things done.  I crank out publications, I complete all my duties quickly, and so on. One rather serious downside of being a person who gets things done is that people are always bringing me things to do, which can be rather tiring. s you might suspect, I am the facilitator for my academic unit (like being a chair, but with no benefits. None at all.) and often end up chairing committees. I also get stuck with the lion’s share of paper work (although an actual lion would probably just piss on the paper rather than doing any paperwork).

Not surprisingly, people have asked me about the secret of my ability to get things done. When I was a student, it was mostly about getting papers done. My answer was both obvious and honest, although a bit of a joke: “everyone writes their papers in two days. I just do my two days at the start of the semester, rather than at the end.” While I was trying to be funny, I realized that what I said was actually pretty close to the mark: I did not really work harder than most people, I just did not put things off.

I thought about this over the years and it developed into one of my basic principles: the way to get something done is to do it. That, of course, seems like an obvious truism. However, it is a secret of my success: I get stuff done because I do it. What strikes me as odd is that, as some folks would say, many other people just don’t get it.  I’ve noticed that many other people talk about how much they have to do. In fact, they talk a great about it. But, they are as short on doing as they are long on talking. However, things do not get done unless they are done. It really is often as simple as that.

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