Busy People

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.

— Lucille Ball

With alarming regularity, people ask me how I do it.  I’m told by people who don’t know me that it’s impossible to write as much as I do. I’m told that I must spend every waking second writing, and when can I possibly find time to do work. I’m asked what my secret is.

Here’s the secret: just do it.

Don’t think about it, complain about it or worry about it. If you want to get something done, just do it.  I’m sick to death of hearing from people who claim I couldn’t possibly do what I do every day.  Obviously, I can, and I do. It’s no big deal, and until other people started making a stink of it, it never even occurred to me that it was anything worth thinking about.  When I have work to do, I do it. When I feel like writing something, which happens with some frequency, I do it.

My question to others who ask me how it’s possible that I do it is “why can’t you?”  Dopey speculation about what I do with my days means nothing to me. Why in the world would it matter to me what someone else thinks I do all day long? I do what I do, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Does it not occur to them how absurd it is to suggest that their projection of their own inadequacies changes anything in my world?

Which brings me to the original point, that busy people just get things done.  We don’t procrastinate. We don’t make excuses.  We don’t dilly-dally when something has to be accomplished.  We sit our butts down, know what we have to do and focus our energies on getting it done.

Whenever a lawyer explains to me that he would like to blog, but can’t find the time in his busy day, he’s telling me far more about himself than he realizes.  He’s telling me that he’s not nearly as effective as he thinks he is. He’s telling me he lacks focus. He’s telling me he really doesn’t want to, even though he says otherwise. He can do it. He chooses not to.

It helps if it’s something you like to do, something you desire to accomplish, which makes the task something you want to accomplish. But then, when it comes to work, it has to get done, and get done right, regardless of whether you’re having a great time with it or not. No client wants to hear that you would have gotten his motions in on time but, hey, they just weren’t, you know, fun.  Busy people don’t care if it’s fun. They care if it’s done, and done right.

It’s easy to over-intellectualize and over-rationalize the strains of daily life and work.  There isn’t a lawyer alive who can’t manufacture a credible excuse for not accomplishing something. It’s one of our strengths. It’s also a lie we tell ourselves to forgive our failure to accomplish things.  There are books about “effective traits,” but it doesn’t require a book, or a listicle, or even this blog post.  All it takes is the decision and fortitude to get everything done that you want to get done.

There are physical limitations, of course. When I get sent an hour long video to watch, it takes an hour no matter how badly I wish it would take five minutes. When someone sends me a 120 page opinion to read, it takes as long as it takes to read it.  There is no magic involved, and I have no tricks to either give me more time in a day or make things that take time go faster. But I don’t take a half hour between tasks to gaze at my navel, watch kitteh videos on Youtube, unless there’s a particular reason why I should.  I don’t waste time, and I don’t have much tolerance for my time being wasted. I’m busy.

While Lucille Ball isn’t listed among the great philosophers, and I don’t believe she’s ever been mentioned by Seth Godin, the fact remains that Lucy and Desi accomplished a whole lot more than most of us. They were busy. They were always busy, and because they were always busy, they always got done what they needed to get done.

I’m a busy guy. I’m always busy, because there is always something I have to do, and always something I can do better. So I start busy and stay busy. That means I can write this blog when you can’t manage to find the time and do the work needed to assure that my clients receive the representation they deserve.  It’s a no-brainer. Just do it. That’s how busy people do it.

18 comments on “Busy People

  1. Rick Horowitz

    I hope you know that when I asked you that question, it was because I am somewhat in awe of what you accomplish.

    People ask me if I ever sleep. Last week, a lawyer asked if I was married. When I said I was, he asked how that was possible. “How do you even have time for a wife with all you do?”

    I’ve got news for folks like that: my wife accomplishes far more than I do. She thinks I’m lazy. Compared to her, I am.

    Compared to you, I think both she and I are.

    But you told me something in an email that you didn’t state so much here. Correct me if I’m mis-remembering, but it’s not just “do it.” You’re also organized and persistent. You make lists; then you do what’s on them.

    Orison Swett Marden, according to Brian Tracy (whose stuff I listen to in my car all the time) said, “The first part of success is ‘Get-to-it-iveness'; the second part of success is ‘Stick-to-it-iveness.'”

    Clearly, that — and organization — is the “secret” to your success.

    1. SHG Post author

      I get asked/told a lot. Sometimes it’s positive, often it’s negative, as in I must spend all day screwing with the blog to the neglect of my practice to write so much.

      The only reason I seem “prolific” to so many is that they aren’t. To me, it’s just another day, and I’ve done nothing special or out of the ordinary.

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  3. Wheeze The People™

    Along with every gift, — in your case, prodigious and quality output, — there is given a curse. (from Ye Olde Chinese Perverb). My spidey senses indicate that your associated curse is either a curmudgeonly spirit or a repugnance of snowflakes. Though it could be argued that those attributes are actually gifts too, so we might have to examine you further to find dem dar curses . . .

    But hey, let’s not over-analyze it and just enjoy your gift. The curse is someone else’s problem (and my guess would be that problem belongs to your wife, but that is just a WAG) . . .

      1. Wheeze The People™

        I’ll just say that the “gift/curse/just is” discussion, IMO, has a lot to do with monkeys and the works of Shakespeare . . .

        Consider this: If our world is made up of an excess of monkeys and very few Shakespeares, do the monkeys believe the Shakespeares have gifts they don’t?? And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the curse of the monkey poop . . .

  4. Carolyn Elefant

    You are right that it does not take books – because all the books on scheduling and time management advise is to make lists and set schedules and eliminate time sinks – but they are all worthless without the fortitude to do the work. But I think that busy people also get a lot done because they love what they do and time passes, lots gets accomplished without it seeming like work at all and it’s so engaging that you can’t stay away. So you may be working 22 hour days but it doesn’t feel like it at all.

    1. SHG Post author

      Once you begin the need to rationalize it (“they love what they do”), you’ve already lost. That’s the sunshine and unicorns marketing pitch, and it’s a lie. Love it? Great. Hate it? Who cares. Do it anyway. Your client doesn’t give a damn if doing the work needed to win his case makes you happy, nor should he. So no, happiness has zero to do with the effectiveness of busy people, and no effective person would ever use happiness as a rationalization.

      As for books, if you need a book to tell you to breathe every day, then you’re a lost cause.

  5. BL1Y

    I don’t think I’ve seen a single writer giving advice on the craft who hasn’t emphasized the need to write every single day, typically setting a minimum of 2 pages or 500 words. This isn’t just because you’ll get better from practice, and if you sit down to write enough times eventually something good will come out and you can discard the rest and keep it.

    The real benefit is that you’re building up a mental muscle, and when you have something you do want to write about you don’t sit there thinking “well what do I do? how do I get started?” Your habits take over and you just start writing.

    I’m sure this was relevant when I started typing it, but I started listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and stopped caring.

  6. David

    On the topic of an hour long video taking an hour to watch, I took part in some online lectures not long ago; they offered to play the lecture at 1x, 1.5x, and 2x speed. I found with a bit of practice, it doesn’t take too long to be able to watch things faster. If there was anything confusing I’d just slow it down until I got it.

      1. David

        It looks like there is, but it’s experimental; if you look for “YouTube HTML5 Video Player”, you’ll find a trial of a newer Youtube player. One of the options in the little gear menu is speed, and it’s worked the one time I tried it.

  7. Mark Kernich

    Heard a busy billionaire on the radio recently. He said his easiest driver is to forget ‘to do’ lists. Says he’s replaced them with ‘today’ lists. Makes a lot of sense…

    Glad to see you’re still ticking on this blog, btw. The filter is down at work so I finally get a look in!

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