Deciding and Doing

Separate Deciding and Doing time

Peter F. Drucker once said, “Planning and doing are separate parts of the same job; they are not separate jobs. There is no work that can be performed effectively unless it contains elements of both.”

Indeed, there isn’t much room for execution when we’re thinking and planning. When we take action, on the other hand, we feel as if our brain loses its ability to think.

Both parts are important for getting things done, but they should be done at different times if at all possible. A study shows that “switching between tasks can cause short mental blocks that can waste up to 40% of a person’s productive time.” Changing between doing and thinking is the same as, if not more than, changing between tasks. This could slow you down if you overthink and question yourself while you’re doing something. You’d lose the valuable momentum. Having separate times for making decisions and taking action is more effective than you might think.

How to “Decide”:

First, make the plan. Be clear about the outcome you are aiming for. Have you ever experienced that constant battle in your mind over a slightly better choice than what you already have? If you get tangled in indecision, know “any” decision is sometimes good enough. Yes, it is tempting to spend time debating the perfect choice. However, continuing this way can be exhausting. You’ll improve your productivity far more if you decide and take action. Make a to-do list, and chunk it down if necessary. Make sure that each action starts with a verb so you know what to do.

How to “Do”:

Second, take action. Taking action is easier when the deciding is finished. If this is daunting or overwhelming, set a timer for just 5 minutes and start doing. Often you gain momentum during these short minutes. However, don’t worry if you still struggle to stay focused. Our brain is quickly distracted by a small noise or movement. It loves to react. So be sure to turn off all notifications from devices to eliminate the external distractions. When questions or ideas that require decisions pop-up in the middle of “doing” mode, I like using the “Train of Thoughts Memo” method from Hustle by Jesse Warren Tevelow. Just dump everything inside and go back to whatever you were doing. It can be a physical notepad, or any text app will do the trick.

Remember that deciding and doing are both important and distinct modes of work. To increase productivity, keep them apart from one another.