Professional Development

The key to success? Just do the work

Yamini Naidu /

Jerry Seinfeld was paid mega-dollars to present his success secrets at a leadership conference.  Apparently, he mounted the stage stairs on the right and wrote three words on a big whiteboard that had been set up in the centre of the stage and then proceeded to exit stage left. Seinfeld had written ‘DO THE WORK’.

Just three simple words are the secret to his success. So what stops us from sometimes doing the work? I know what stops me. Sometimes it’s good old procrastination.

One strategy I have learnt over the years is to tell myself: ‘OK I will only do 10 minutes and then stop’. This tricks me into starting which can often be the hardest part, and of course after 10 minutes I have momentum so tend not to stop.

But procrastination is a tricky beast and it can also come disguised as its beautiful cousin: perfection. So often we can put off doing stuff, or sharing our work, because there is one more tweak to be made, as it is not perfect just yet.

While I am certainly not suggesting we have to put out work of poor quality, a ‘beta mentality’ does help us pilot stuff quicker and also helps us get the work done.

Another strategy that I have learnt is to buddy up with someone. Whether this is going for a social run or working together on a project, it helps keep you accountable. In fact we used this exact strategy to write and complete our first book in record time!

Seinfeld also had a unique strategy for ‘doing the work’. He set himself the task of writing one joke a day. He said to do this he had a large wall calendar and would mark off each day when he had completed the task. His goal was to have a cross for each day and he said soon you have a chain of crosses and you see progress. Simple but effective.

Peter Cook – my mentor and a thought leader on implementation – recommends that when it comes to projects that matter, you should identify where you are weakest. Is it in starting, continuing or completing the work? Then develop strategies that help you overcome this weakness.

What strategies do you use to ‘do the work’?  Please comment, I would love to hear what works for you.

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