Beating Back the “Do More” Monster

While I no longer think the boogey man lives in my closet, or a dragon under my bed (though I’m not entirely convinced that there is no Nessie in Loch Ness), I do daily battle with a couple of monsters with whom, I’d be willing to bet, more than a few of you are also familiar. Today’s post is all about my least favorite – the “Do More” Monster.

He’s the one whispering little nags into your subconscious, just about the time you start thinking about turning off the computer and turning your attention to home matters. “C’mon,” he says in his growly, stern voice, “one more email. One more letter. Shouldn’t you return that phone call? And what about tomorrow’s list? You should really get a jump on that. The kids will understand. You need to do more

He’s Enemy Number One for the Inspired Solo!

Now, sometimes, of course, he’s right. You really do need to return that phone call today. (We’ve all heard the statistics – how lack of lawyer communication is the underlying complaint behind grievances filed with bar authorities by disgruntled clients.) You do need to stay late to meet a deadline that’s looming. That’s really the genius of the Do More Monster, though. He uses the legitimacy he earns with the appropriate reminders to guilt you into buying his “BS” the rest of the time.

How do you recognize and beat the Do More Monster at his own game? Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is there a looming deadline – either an external one (such as a court- or rule-imposed deadline) or an internal one (e.g., my firm policy of returning all client phone calls within 24 hours)?
  2. Can you reasonably expect to accomplish the task he’s nagging you to do within the time remaining if you decide to ignore the monster in this moment?
  3. Have you made a promise to someone?

Question #2 gets you focused back on the practicalities of the situation, rather than the emotional appeal the Do More Monster is making to your conscience. Questions 1 and 3 help you dig deeper, into (A) the practical consequences of your actions and (B) the consequences to your reputation – and to your self-esteem. If I make a promise to someone that I’ll deliver a particular piece of work by close of business Friday, then come hell or high water, I deliver. (If I’m not sure I can deliver by then, I don’t make the promise.) The consequence of ignoring that promise is that my reputation takes a hit but just as importantly, my perception of my own integrity takes a hit, too. Neither consequence is acceptable.

Barring those implications, the Do More Monster’s just blowing smoke. When there’s a lot to be done – as there has been around my house for the last several months, thanks to a number of work and creative projects, as well as upheavals of the personal nature – it’s all too tempting to say to myself, “I really ought to be ____________” (fill in the blank). But what I’ve learned is to watch out for those very words –

Ought to



– and the like. They’re the favored language of the Do More Monster. When I hear myself using those words, it’s a red flag to me – “Possible DMM Attack. Approach With Caution.” The question then becomes – do I feel that I “should” do this task because it’s important, or because I’m being guilt-tripped into it?

We’d all love to be more productive – to get more done. Sometimes, however, the answer ironically isn’t “do more.”

1 comment so far

  1. […] Inspired Solo gives some good examples of checking your email “one more time” at night and agreeing to bill by the hour when you had decided to fixed fee […]

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