The Secret to Getting Things Done

The secret to getting through your to-do list, as well as accomplishing those less than pleasant tasks in your business, can be found in this one adage.

For many years my parents subscribed to Reader’s Digest. Usually I enjoyed reading each issue as much as they did. The segment I liked most was a feature called “The Best Advice I Ever Had.”

Even today, one of those best advice stories sticks with me and remains a great lesson. Writing about his boyhood, Harry Emerson Fosdick—longtime beloved minister of Riverside Church in New York City—recalled a morning when his father was leaving the house. He turned to Harry’s mother and said:

“Tell Harry he can cut the grass today, if he feels like it.”

Then after a few steps the father turned back and added a sentence packed with meaning: “Tell Harry he had better feel like it.”

The reason I treasure young Fosdick’s instruction from his father is that many of us know what we have to do in our business to attract prospective clients, make sales, manage disengaged employees, resolve customer complaints, and calm our critics. The major problem, though, is that in many instances we delay action until we feel like it.

RELATED: Want to Stop Procrastinating? Here are 10 Ways to Do It

So the paternal advice from Harry’s father tells us that we “had better feel like it” when we must do some of these unpleasant, dreaded things:

–tell our employees there will be no raises this year

–call that customer who has a well-deserved reputation as a constant complainer

–terminate a longtime team member

–learn a complex software system the company has mandated

–work during the weekend to meet a deadline

–tell our sales manager we are not going to achieve our quarterly quota

–resolve a sexual harassment accusation

Already, I am confident you could add a dozen similar unpleasant tasks and responsibilities to this list—possibly two dozen. Note this: If you wait until you feel like doing them, the problems will certainly multiply and escalate.

Getting back to young Harry’s assignment to cut the grass, I can visualize that small boy pushing the mower back and forth, up and down hills, around flowers and bushes, wiping the sweat from his face until he got the job done. Let’s be aware this was one of those long ago mowers, without a motor, appropriately called “push mowers.” Harry got the demanding job done, because he knew that he “better feel like it.”

RELATED: Say No to Get Control of Your Life

Keep this story in mind next time you look at your to-do list for a week, or hear your boss add to that already challenging list. When will you do those things? When you feel like it. And suddenly, you will surprisingly find the nerve to feel like it.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., pushed a lawn mower every time his father told him to. After teaching at the University of Georgia he spent twenty-two years in management. Since 1997 he has served top-tier clients as a Communication Consultant, Speech Coach, and Keynote Speaker. His Web site: Call him: 678-316-4300

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