Being busy can often feel useful, but it’s a poor measure of progress.

You can be busy and make no progress.

You can be busy and make a lot of progress.

Same energy requirements yet drastically different outcomes.

Anchor yourself with two questions first: what am I actually trying to accomplish? What things — actions, conversations, questions — are worth pursuing to accomplish this?

And then go be busy with that.

Alternatively, you can choose to not be busy. It’s not often stated, but you’re not required to be busy all the time — in fact, it’s probably beneficial to occasionally pull your foot off the accelerator. So keep that option open too.

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You can put a magnifying glass on a mistake or setback and interpret it as progress totally lost, but that isn’t always the case.

When you’re ready and if you’re open to it, a setback can forge you in a way that serves you in the future.

This isn’t to glamorize setbacks, they are often frustrating to say the least and should be avoided. But recognizing that it is possible to emerge from them with something useful when we must confront them — a lesson, a skill, a clearer perspective — offers an important clarification on what’s going on.

Yes, you’re stumbling.

But, critically, you’re stumbling uphill.

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Seeking information and guidance is useful up to a point.

At first, it’s well-intentioned: you look for information to make an informed decision. Sounds reasonable.

Eventually, it becomes a stalling tactic: you seek information because it allows you to justify postponing a decision or action.

I just need more information, that’s all.

It helps to establish a Do Date — not the date that something needs to be done by, but the date that you commit to making a decision or taking action.

Giving yourself all the time in the world to start is one way to ensure that you don’t.

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You can plan for what you know, but you can’t plan for the curveballs that are inevitably thrown at you.

Being able to follow a plan is half of what is needed to take a day in stride; the ability to respond without preparation to a plan being derailed or…

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Either choose to care or to be indifferent.

It’s easier to manage your energy if you can clearly draw a line between what you are and are not committed to.

At all costs avoid the middle, where you teeter endlessly between being in and being out.

The middle is what saps the most energy and, among the people around you, creates the most confusion.

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William Liao

William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)