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« Diet Day Three | Main | Structuring the Day »

What will happen if I do nothing?

(This article features in today's issue of my newsletter)

For the first in my series of powerful questions, I am starting with a very interesting one: "What will happen if I do nothing?" There are many ways in which we can use it and many meanings we can give to the question. We can use it when we feel stuck and we can use it when things are going well. The answer to the question may be negative, or it may be positive. It's a question which can be asked by an individual, or by a team or by a whole organisation.

First of all we can ask the question when things are going well. When our new business has finally taken off, it is easy to think that success is our birthright and that it is going to continue that way for ever. Yet the fact is that nothing is static. As the saying goes, “Change is here to stay”. When we reach the point where we are comfortable with what we have achieved, we may well have also reached the point where we have become complacent. The result is that we do nothing which is out of our comfort zone. Eventually we wake up one morning to find that life and the market have moved on and we and our business have been left behind. Businesses that don’t keep up to date with the latest developments are not going to maintain their success. Regularly asking "What will happen if we do nothing apart from what we are already doing?" can wake us up to the danger of stagnation. It may make us aware of the trends that are working against us and which will overwhelm us if we don’t start to do something about them.

This question is even more useful when things are going badly. In these circumstances our greatest enemies are fear and inertia: fear - because any step we could take seems fraught with risk; inertia - because any effective action is likely to lead us way out of our comfort zone. The question “What will happen if I do nothing about this situation?” can alert us to the fact that doing nothing is likely to be just as risky and uncomfortable as any of the other courses of action. When we don’t make our mind up to do something, we are in effect making our mind up to do nothing. Doing nothing is one of the decisions. We are seldom faced with the choice, do I do X or do I do Y? The choice is really Do I do X, Do I do Y, or do I carry on as I am? We need to examine the effects of doing nothing just as closely as we look at the effects of doing X or Y.

Of course, doing nothing is sometimes the correct answer. Governments in particular seem to have great difficulty in believing that every news items doesn't require a reaction from them. Bearing in mind the old adage "There are no circumstances so bad that government interference can't make them worse", most of us would be only too glad if our governments would concentrate on the fundamentals rather than shower us with new initiatives at the drop of a hat.

Sometimes we just have to allow time for the right solution or the right decision to appear. Meanwhile we can reassure ourselves that the course of action we are taking at the moment is the right one. If we can't make up our mind about a proposed course of action, then that is probably as good a sign as any that we shouldn't be taking that action.

Reader Comments (6)

Comment on your newsletter:

My email-reader thinks your newsletter is spam, because you have links with a different text then the link itself.

Like your link to

that really goes to:

I understand that you want to track the response to the newletter, but this way of doing it, I find a little bit rude and spam-like - I mean - your link is sailing under a false flag here.

I would recommend linking with a text to "To my Web" or something instead.

When you write as a link, the deacent thing to do would be to have that as a link-adress also.

Kind regards,
December 5, 2006 at 15:44 | Unregistered Commentern.
Dear N, Thanks for your comments.

My newsletter has a relatively low rejection rate (and most of the bounces are caused by out of date addresses) so I don't think this is causing a problem for its distribution. On the Constant Contact test for spam-type qualities it consistently scores zero.

As far as the "morality" is concerned I don't see what difference putting "My Website" instead of "" would make.
December 6, 2006 at 17:25 | Unregistered CommenterMark Forster
August 22, 2007 at 23:16 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Your work and books impress me. I'm off to order the "Do It Tomorrow" today!
You really look into real "time management" as opposed to the run of the mill tactics that we know don't work. You are so innovative! I recommend your text to my clients because part of personal branding is having the time to EXTRACT who you really are. Such self discovery, often meets with resistance and the first excuse always being "not enough time".
Thank you!!
August 29, 2007 at 15:19 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Elena Duron
Thank you, Maria Elena. "Not having enough time" is just another way of failing to sort out a system. We prefer to do something the wrong way a thousand times rather than spend a little time to put it right for ever!
August 29, 2007 at 17:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, just wanted to feedback to you that I am now using the DIT approach to managing my time and am finding it very effective. Specifically, I was previously running with another time management system which was overly complicated and took too much time to maintain - in fact my focus was too much on open lists and not actually doing the work! The biggest benefit for me, however, is that I now set daily limits on my work. This has lowered my stress levels and the unrealistic expectations I was putting on myself. Many thanks. Leon.
January 8, 2008 at 11:53 | Unregistered CommenterLeon

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