Getting Things Done

I’ve adapted to (and adopted much of) Parisian life over the past few years.

My American ‘go go go’ mentality has been beaten, bent, reshaped, and refined. Instead of long hours of hit and miss effort, I now work intensely in focused and compartmentalized blocks of time, then walk away from the task at hand when I’ve done my daily best. Letting it rest. Letting it settle. Letting it be.

Of course, ideas come to me in the evenings. Notes are scribbled. But it’s rare that I’m consumed day and night with work, or thinking about work.

This subtle transformation may have been the exposure I’ve had to a more European way of getting things done. I’ve watched artists and entrepreneurs here. They are committed to their craft and their business, but they exhibit a few important differences that their Anglo counterparts.

These strategies have helped me. They may help you.

First, more than a few of the high achievers I know Live in Their Own Little World. This means that distractions and disruptions are kept at a minimum. They focus on mentally building and living in the ‘context’ or world of their own creation. Then they concentrate of the work that needs to be done to make that imaginary world a reality.

Outside input from the media, gossipy friends, and society at large are kept at a distance, or blocked out altogether. It is a form of denial, to be sure, but it also discipline. It is a selfish act, to some extent, but it is also necessary.

It’s not that these people don’t care about others, they just don’t tolerate toxic or needy relationships or time-wasters of any kind. (Television, social media…) They also are very stingy with their time, even with the people they care about.

Second, they Keep Their Own Counsel. They don’t share their ideas prematurely. They don’t talk about what they’re working on. They let the end result speak for itself, and even after it’s successful, they don’t talk much about it, or themselves. They’re focused on the next project, the next goal.

Third, they possess an Unreasonable Faith. In themselves, in their work, in their purpose, and in the value of their contribution. Again, this may border on sociopathic behavior, but it is often necessary in order to create achieve something that others say is impossible, to invest in something others say has no value, to see the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, to persevere when others would quit, to believe when others are certain all is lost.

Fourth, while they enjoy the fruits of their labor, the biggest reward is having the Opportunity To Do The Work. The creation is a goal and a reward and a purpose all unto itself. The act of doing the task is independent and insulated from anything that might spring from it or relate to it. It provides all the fulfillment necessary. The rest–money, recognition, etc,—is gravy.

All these lead to predictable results: professional excellence and personal satisfaction. And isn’t that what we all strive for?

  • BGT


5 thoughts on “Getting Things Done

  1. I think you’re on to something. I’ve noticed the same thing and I’ve always admired it. I think it’s why Americans sometimes perceive the French as being aloof or even rude. Once you get used to it Americans seem overly friendly and easily distracted. I’ve observed the same thing with some very high achieving people in the U.S. It’s sort of the French version of “work hard, play hard”. Or maybe it’s just being a grown-up.

  2. Recently I came across this Andy Warhol quote and went back to look it up after reading your post: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

    The distraction is really the difference here in the U.S. Or, in fact, allowing the distraction.
    I find my head so scattered after even ten minutes of internet scrolling because of the overstimulation and mishmash of inane behavior. We have the ability to control what we absorb, and should, because the impact is significant.

  3. I don’t get along with my grandfather’s wife. That said, she did impart a few things as I grew up that has stuck with me. One of those is to work smarter, not harder. I have always had that in the back of my mind since age 12.

  4. I don’t know if Byron knows any US millennials but go-go-go is not an accurate description of their work behavior. That was much more of a boomer thing. While the pandemic undoubtedly changed things, today employers are having a tough time even getting employees to come back to the office. People quit if they are asked to. Employees want to play sports now during the work day and feel entitled to do so. They fill the grocery stores during the work day and the gyms are full with full time people. I do believe that entrepreneurs in the US have a go-go-go mentality and that’s likely a bit true as well in Europe, I know several German entrepreneurs and they behave in a very similar manner to American entrepreneurs. Possibly even more so, more akin to the Japanese. But we must recognize a sea change in American behavior. It is a somewhat out of date view that everyone in the US lives to work. Sorry Byron!

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