A Case Against Getting Shit Done
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
In the era of bro-etry, obscure LinkedIn titles and catchy ways to stand out in an ever-crowded job market, a popular tagline has emerged, where praise-hungry millennials and workaholics proudly proclaim that they’re ‘getting shit done’.
For a long time, I thought that was a badass line. It was like a big, shiny rosette you could attach to your forehead that said ‘I am a do-er of things! Behold my to-do list! It is done! Huzzah! Pay me money!’
'Getting shit done' was a pseudonym for personal success. I saw it on business cards, on t-shirts, even on job advertisements. It was a call to arms and armed people with a banner that you could ram in some innocent passerby’s face to convince them of your worth.
But in recent years, I’ve had to take a slightly different approach. Of course, there’s much merit in getting things done. It’s all very well and good having a wishbone where your backbone ought to be, and dreaming big, and planning and plotting – but actually Doing the Thing is essential. So yes, there is merit and value in getting shit done.
The question is whether it should end there. Because doing things is great - but making things happen is better. Making things happen isn’t just about getting shit done, it’s about setting things up so that others can achieve.
It’s about changing outdated cultures. It’s about developing real curiosity about the work outside of your to-do list. It's about positively challenging the notion that things have to be finished. Underlined. Written in stone. It’s remaining flexible in a rigid environment.
To me, getting shit done is static. It inhibits creativity by prioritising done-ness over substance. Inherent in the concept is the idea that the task is linear – take A, do B, get C. How often does that actually happen? Is there really a template recipe for success?
Making things happen is a process of wide-eyed guidance – nurturing growth and encouraging creativity. When you move away from just getting shit done, you suddenly come up for air. The day no longer feels like a battle. It’s no longer a race against the clock.
Instead, you can take a few breaths. You can look holistically at what you’re here to achieve – and then you get to decide how you’d like that process to unfurl.
Granted, it’s not as immediately satisfying as checking off a list, going home, having a cocktail, and congratulating yourself on what you did – but it also means that you remain involved with the gift of your work in a way that’s far less likely to burn you out.
It stops you being prescriptive, and instead, allows you to become an interested person. And, in my humble opinion, I think the world could do with a few more interested, curious people. People that are inspired and inspire change. People that, quite simply, are here to make things happen.