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The Obsession with “Done”

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Media darling Bre Pettis continues to circle the web. This post is about completion. Done, he asserts, is what matters, and all productivity arises from an obsession with done.

His thesis appears as The Cult of Done Manifesto, which includes the following thirteen points:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the Internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.
Bre Pettis

© Flickr user Bre Pettis

Brief statements of philosophy like The Cult of Done Manifesto are everywhere, and they seem to generate mostly reactions of inspiration or disgust. The comments on Pettis’ blog demonstrate this passion. Are these thirteen theses a mark of genius or an tragic oversimplification of real life?

The precise answer is unclear, but several of the points merit discussion. For example, Item #1 insists on only “three states of being—not knowing, action and completion.” Obviously, projects can be stalled, held up by clients, placed on low-priority or rescheduled, but the notion of all status updates offering just one of the three states sounds blissfully appealing. Any project manager would probably agree that they don’t want to hear about anything else.

Likewise, the suggestion of item #8 to “Laugh at perfection” makes sense. This is merely a brazen restatement of the old adage “perfect is the enemy of good.” Even #10 offers sage advice, as mistakes and failure are part of success.

Points #5 and #9, however, may seem odd to many. Surely some ideas require more than week of gestation. Not all activity is productive or even positive. An obsession with getting things done may inspire you to give up on your dreams, and instead spend your time completing many tasks that are of little or no value. A manifesto cannot completely describe the best way for everyone to work.

Nevertheless, increased productivity leads to increased satisfaction. There is power in the emotional impact of reaching a finish line. The thirteen points of The Cult of Done Manifesto are just advice, but building enthusiasm about working smarter is the first step to change. If you or your organization is ready to become more productive and move beyond slogans into actual transformations, talk to the change management experts at AccelaWork. We help companies and non-profit organizations channel enthusiasm for renewed productivity into new business process models and system implementations through committed engagements.

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