Stop Waiting and Start Doing

I once changed roles in a company I was working for and I had the opportunity to review the team I was leaving behind with their incoming leader. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses and how he could help each of them to continue to grow. 

When discussing a particular employee I made the comment that this person would do anything you asked them to do to the very best of their ability. That was their strength. Their weakness was that if you didn’t ask them to do anything then nothing is exactly what they would do. Nothing! The person completely lacked initiative. 

That’s a huge challenge for many people in the workplace today. They wait and wait to be told what to do. When they are told what to do they will need explicit instructions on when to start and how to do it. You may tell them to do something every Monday morning for a year but the first Monday morning you fail to tell them to do it do not be surprised when it doesn’t get done. 

There are lots of reasons some people lack initiative.

Some have what’s called Bounded Rationality. That’s a fancy way of saying they can’t even consider doing something they are not told to do. If it is something not entirely within their comfort zone they won’t even consider doing it unless they are explicitly directed to do it. They may not feel especially qualified to do it and unsure where to start. That’s an initiative killer too.

Some people are lazy. They expend the majority of their energy finding ways to NOT accomplish something. But as a leader you should know this: they were not born lazy. Somewhere along the way they lost their motivation and with it their initiative. Perhaps a former boss or teacher told them they would never succeed. Maybe someone told them they didn’t have what it takes to excel. Sadly they may have believed that.

If you have the audacity the call yourself a leader then never give up on someone who may be lazy today. Discover their motivators and help them find their initiative again. That is not a burden for an Authentic Leader, it is a challenge they enthusiastically accept. 

Some people who seem to lack initiative have learned that if they wait long enough to take action that someone, likely you, will come along to rescue them. Their lack of initiative is strategic. 

They know that you or someone else you assign will swoop in to get the work done. In these cases you as a leader are at least party responsible for their lack of initiative. You have taught them that they do not need to be accountable. You deny them the opportunity to learn and grow. You limit their opportunities to learn decision making and correcting mistakes they may have made. 

If they are thinking they cannot succeed you have solidified their thinking. That’s not effective leadership. 

Sometimes too much initiative can actually lead to what appears to be a lack of initiative. When a person says yes to more than they can handle they may become so overburdened that they don’t know where to begin…so they don’t. 

As a leader you must not allow your people to become so weighted down with work that they can’t maintain their forward momentum. When that happens most leaders wonder what happened to their former top performer. What they don’t realize is that what happened to them was inattentive leadership. 

If you’re not yet a leader but you want to be then you must make taking the initiative a habit. If you hope for greater success in the future then stop hoping and start taking the initiative. 

 

Make no mistake about this absolute fact: if you always wait for someone to tell you what to do you can be certain that someone will always be telling you what to do.

Don’t Let Waiting be a Waste

People around the world are waiting. We wait for meetings, we wait for appointments, we wait at airports, we wait for people who are late, we wait and we wait some more. 

 

Many people think “wait time” is wasted time. Well it’s only wasted if you allow it to be. There are a ton of productive things you can do when you’re waiting. That’s true no matter what you’re waiting for or how long you’re waiting. 

 

Most people waste waiting time because it’s “only” a few minutes. Well, a few minutes here and a few minutes there and pretty soon you’ve wasted more time than successful people can afford to waste. Let’s look at the numbers, these are accurate for those of us in the United States but they are representative for anyone. 

 

According to a Timex survey, Americans wait:

  • on average of 20 minutes a day for the bus or train
  • 32 minutes whenever they visit a doctor
  • 28 minutes in security lines whenever they travel
  • 21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out
  • 13 hours annually waiting on hold for a customer service
  • 38 hours each year waiting in traffic
  • those living in big cities wait in traffic more than 50 hours annually

People spend approximately 6 months of their lives waiting in line for things, it means like 3 days a year of lining up. The average person spends about 43 days on hold with automated customer service in a lifetime. Those who take the bus or train will wait about 27 days of their lives waiting around on the platform or at the bus stop.

 

And what about our Phones?

  • We spend 23 days a year on our phones
  • 90 minutes a day
  • 9 years of the average person’s life

By the way “Phone” means to call somebody but that is now the sixth most used feature on a smartphone.

 

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to waste hours and hours of every year waiting. So let’s see if we can make waiting time a little more useful. Here’s a few ideas on how we might do that. 

 

Do Nothing. Doing nothing is one of the things I’m best at. I’ll put my “doing nothing” skills up against anyone. Doing nothing is also one of my most productive activities. While doing nothing I’m thinking about all kinds of generally worthless stuff but mostly I’m in my own world, recharging my batteries so I’m more productive when my wait is over. It’s okay, better than okay actually, to do nothing from time to time. We need to shut down once in a while in order to have peak performance time during the day. If you never shut down it’s likely you also never have truly peak performance either. 

 

Call Someone. A whole bunch of the time we spend on our smartphones is unproductive time. You can change that by increasing the time you’re using your phone to call someone. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve been meaning to call for a long time. Maybe it’s a customer you’ve been putting off calling because your relationship is a bit strained. Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to someone you care about to tell them you’re thinking of them. (you might make their day and to me, that’s a very productive thing)

 

Read. The most successful people I know always have a good book with them for those unexpected waiting times. It might be a paper book or it might be on a Kindle but they have something to read to help them learn. If you’re a road warrior then this could make a world a difference for you. Check out audio books you can listen to in the car on on your phone when you find yourself “stuck” someplace you didn’t intend to be. 

 

Meet someone new. By definition if you’re in line there is someone either in front of you or behind you, likely both. That person may have an idea that could change your life, or better yet, you may have an idea that could change theirs. Get out of that success limiting comfort zone of yours and be that strange person who will talk to anyone. It’s uncommon to find people with enough confidence to talk to anyone anywhere but you will never have uncommon results by doing common things. 

 

Adjust your plan. You had a 10:00am doctors appointment and upon arriving a few minutes early you’re told the doctor is running a few minutes late. In “doctor speak” that likely means 30 minutes or even more. Use that precious time to adjust your plan for the day. Reprioritize what you’re going to accomplish with the rest of your day. Instead of stressing over what won’t get done decide what doesn’t NEED to be done and take a bit of stress out of your waiting time. The one problem that most people have with adjusting their plan during waiting time is that they didn’t have a plan to begin with. If you’re most people then do yourself a favor and make a plan before you leave home every day. Even if your day doesn’t go according to plan that planning time will be the most productive time of your day. 


“Waste not want not” is a very common saying. I prefer “wait not want not.” It’s far less common and far more productive.  

 

 

The Best Time to Plant Ceeds

I’m told the English language is one of the hardest languages to learn as a second language. There are many words which appear to be identical yet have multiple meanings. Then there’s the your vs you’re thing that even many native English speakers can’t seem to figure out. Do I write this blog or do I right this blog? This list of conflicts within the English language could go on and on.

 

As challenging as the English language can be however it’s also fascinating when you really study it. 

 

For instance, Google says there are 171,476 words in the English language and only three of them end in “ceed.” 

 

The first of the “ceed” words is proceed. Proceed, as in begin or continue. Successful people know this word well; while almost everyone wants success not everyone is will to proceed down the path required to achieve it. Wishing for something rarely makes it happen, working for it frequently does. Proceed to take positive steps toward your goals or just keep wishing, the choice is always yours.

 

The biggest challenge for most people in their pursuit of success is simply beginning. They don’t “proceed” to the starting line, they procrastinate, they make excuses, they just never build any momentum for themselves. You cannot finish what you never begin, so proceed to the starting line and then push yourself over.

 

The next “ceed” word is exceed. Not coincidentally, successful people know this word well too. In almost everything they do they exceed the efforts of less successful people. The most successful people know that they are due absolutely nothing until they actually do at least something.

 

Once you’ve begun you must keep going. One trait of highly successful people is that they kept going when they thought they couldn’t continue. They “exceed” not only their own expectations but the expectations of the naysayers who said they couldn’t do it. Never quit without thinking about why you started in the first place. If your initial reasoning still makes since then push on; do not limit your success by failing to exceed previous limits.

 

The final “ceed” word is of course succeed. Clearly the definition of what it means to succeed is as varied as the population of the world. We all define success on our own terms. But this much is certain, success comes from doing. It comes from doing something significant, something that matters. 

 

The people who decided that proceed, exceed, and succeed should be the only “ceed” words in the English language were pretty smart. They must have known that the process of success was to proceed, then exceed and if you accomplish both of those you’ll almost certainly succeed. 


The very best time to plant your own “ceeds” for success is today. Don’t limit yourself even one more minute. Do it now with the absolute certainty the only chance you have to finish is to begin.