"Never confuse motion with action."
St. Johns Lodge, PA
It took me a long time to figure out, but there is a big difference between being busy all the time, and getting something done. We live in a world where we're running all the time, and when we aren't running, we're tapping on our iPhones--texting and answering emails. At the end of the day, we go to bed worn out, looking at our busy schedule for the next day on our iPhone and realizing that as busy as we were today, it just seems like we didn't really get much done.
Action is a little more focused. There's usually a plan in place, and a goal in mind. While going through the motions is more about trying desperately to keep up. These confused and chaotic people have this idea that if they aren't moving all the time, they aren't getting anywhere. But if you really look at them, you'll quickly realize they aren't doing much at all, because there is no plan, they are just drifting in a tide they don't really control.
What do you want to accomplish today?
A lot of people wouldn't be able to answer that simple question. They don't see things that way. They start each day with the idea they are just going to get through it. There is no plan in place, there is no goal in mind, and there is no list, either mental or physical that outlines what they expect to accomplish. But rest assured, they never stop moving.
The best way to stop moving and start accomplishing something is to just stop for a few minutes every day and think about what you're doing. What do you want to accomplish today? What do you want to get done this week? This month? This year? What's really important to you? What's not?
Once you start thinking about what you're doing instead of just doing it, you're going to see that so much of the busy work you're doing really isn't advancing your goals. Figure out where you want to go, what you want to do, and what you're going to accomplish each day, and then eliminate anything that isn't getting you where you want to go.
I watched a movie the other night that reminded me of this principle. There was a merchant ship being chased by a pirate ship, and the pirate ship is quickly catching up. The captain of the merchant ship tells the crew to start tossing things overboard--they needed to be lighter. It's amazing how quickly you're able to decide what's important to keep and what you can let go of when you're being pursued by pirates. The more they tossed off the ship, the faster they got, and soon the pirate ship couldn't keep up.
It works that way in life, too. The more dead weight you can rid yourself of, the faster and more efficient you're going to be, and the faster you're going to accomplish your goals. It's not about keeping up, it's about getting ahead.
Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.