Movement Versus Action

“Never confuse movement with action.” – Ernest Hemingway

It is easy to be busy. Whether we’re reading blogs, cleaning the house or wrapping up a feature story, there are plenty of ways to fill our days. The key is identifying our end goal and then determining if what we’re doing is simply movement or if it is action. Differentiating between the two can add to our success in our professional and personal lives alike.

I do better at focusing in on action in some areas than others. For example, as a writer and entrepreneur, I have set income targets I need and want to hit each month. That means every paying project puts me a step closer to achieving my goal. As my business has grown, I’ve been able to take on higher paying projects while cutting back on others. Both qualify as “action.”

Determining our goals and focusing on the actions necessary to achieve them also helps with time management. Unfortunately, I frequently find myself bouncing from blog to blog with no real goal in mind, which equates to only movement. I’ve switched to Google Reader and added primarily writing blogs to my subscriptions. Reading targeted, career-related posts gives my online reading purpose and also inspires me to write.

Goals don’t always have to be big picture. On weekdays, my first goals of the day including getting lunches and school bags packed, kids dressed and everyone loaded in the car by 8:50. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve woken up at 5:30 a.m. yet still had to rush out the door at 8:55. Those mornings are filled with far more movement than action. Now I’m trying to focus on the most important tasks first and save playing and reading for after my kids are presentable and the school bags are prepped and waiting by the door. 

I first read Hemingway’s quote in Papa Hemingway by A.E. Hotchner about twelve years ago. Whenever I think about it, it helps me keep the big picture in mind. As I wind down 2011 and begin plotting goals for 2012, I’m going to ask myself if the steps I’m taking are action or simply movement. How about you? Are there ways you can turn movement into action? I'd love to hear about it! 

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