The next few posts are going to be a series I’m calling “Language Matters” on how the language we use can help us to get stuff done.

You know that you can’t do everything. (Right??) You, very likely, have more things to do than time available in which to do them. We all do. This would be true even if you were the most efficient and productive person in the world.

Yet it can be quite a challenge to 1) accept that we can’t do it all and 2) figure out what we should prioritize given that truth. How should you spend your limited time for both maximum productivity AND enjoyment?

If you’re used to taking it all on, or at least the lion’s share, here’s something that might stop you in your multi-tasking tracks: Yes, you’ve got a ton of stuff on your list that must be done. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be done by you.

There’s a question you can ask that can help you figure out how to spend your time so that more of your time is spent on things you want to do, and less on things you don’t, while still making sure that all the important stuff done:

Do you want to do this, or do you want it to be done?

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the difference? Isn’t this just semantics?”

Here’s the difference: If you want to do something, you should do it. If you simply want something to be done, but don’t want to actually do it, then you might be able to find a different way to get it done that doesn’t involve you actually doing it.

For instance, if I asked you about doing your taxes, what would your answer be. Are you looking forward to doing your taxes, or are you looking forward to them being done? If the latter, then it might be time to figure out how to get this off your plate.

The types of things we want to do, and the types of things we just want done will vary from person to person. It’s deeply personal.

I know plenty of people who like to entertain, but who don’t actually want to do the cooking. They want the prep work done, but they don’t want to do it. Meanwhile, if I’m having people over, I thoroughly looking forward to the cooking part. I want to do it because that’s the part I enjoy. Neither of these stances is “right” or “better”. We’re just all different and have different goals, values, interests, and intentions. Thus while we might all have a very overlapping set of responsibilities, what we want to do, vs. what we want to be done, is going to be pretty different as well (and that’s to our benefit if we want to barter – see below).

So, let’s say I’ve inspired you to review your task list through the lens of “Do I want to do it, or do I want it done?”. How then, should you go about facilitating the “getting it done” part without actually doing it?

Here are a few methods to explore:


If you’ve got direct reports (or kids!) the stuff you want to be done, but don’t want to do, are perfect opportunities for delegation. (This is precisely why it’s my kids’ responsibility to clean the kitchen after dinner. I like having a clean kitchen, but I don’t enjoy cleaning it.)

If you want to read more about how to delegate effectively, check out my previous post about this.


To the extent your budget allows, you can outsource the stuff you want to be done, but don’t want to do. (Taxes, anyone?)

You probably won’t be surprised to find that you can outsource pretty much anything, from your laundry to waiting in line at the DMV, to making your PPT slides look pretty.


If you’d love to outsource some items, but your budget is a little more constrained, you might consider bartering with a friend.

Maybe you have a friend who loves organizing and who would be happy to help you organize your closets in exchange for a haul of lemons from your backyard tree. Or maybe you’re a whiz with a sewing machine and would be more than happy to tailor or mend some clothes for a friend who would, in turn, help you design a logo for your new business.

The next time you have something on your list that you just keep on procrastinating, ask yourself this: Do I really want to do this, or do I just want it to be done?