Separate Doing from Managing

When you try to manage a project while doing the work at the same time, things often fall apart, and you do neither well. Get-It-Done Guy has tips on how to separate doing from managing.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #284

It is a dark and stormy night. I am hunched over my computer writing furiously, working on my book Get-it-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. The solitary candle flickers on my desk as lightning flashes illuminate the mantle, throwing my pet raven’s image into sharp relief as he recites once again passages from Fifty Shades of Grey into the cold, uncaring night.


I type the final word of my chapter as a thunderclap fills the room. Laughing in triumph, I rip the final sheet from the typewriter, take one look at my masterpiece…and realize that I just finishing writing chapter 6. The problem is that I’m pretty sure I finished chapter 6 three weeks ago and sent it off to my editor. Oops. My raven stares at me expressionless, opens his beak, and says simply, “Nevermore.”


That was a few years ago. The book is done. Go buy 10 or 20 copies, I'll wait.

But the lesson was key: I was so in the flow of writing that I lost track of the process of writing.  

This is what happens when you try to manage a task and do it at the same time. Have you ever been asked to manage a project you’re working on? Sometimes, this works out really well. Other times, it’s a mind-boggling disaster. We assume, “If Melvin is good at programming, then surely he’ll be good as a programming manager.” Not true. I know, because in one of my early jobs, I was Melvin. I was supposed to manage the project I worked on. Let’s just say things didn’t work out so well. As those of you over 30 will remember, the Earth used to have two moons...

Doing and Managing Are Different Skills

When you’re doing, your brain is in full "doing stuff” mode. If you’re writing, your brain is full of what you’re writing about, it’s full of grammar and spelling and sentences. If you’re gathering market data, your brain is full of focus group comments, demographics, and observations. Stuff like that. 

When you’re managing, your brain is in planning mode. You’re assigning deadlines and milestones, choosing how long your report or presentation will be, and figuring out how to delegate work that you can’t do yourself. Stuff like that.

Those are completely different! Your brain is full of different stuff depending on whether you’re doing or managing. You can’t do both at once. You’ll drive yourself nuts.  


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.