The "Cult of Done" can kiss my ass (and mark it off their list once they have)

I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. I liked it. It helped a lot. I actually get more done now since I read it 4 years ago, and I still use principles like email folders and "If it takes 2 minutes or less, do it right now." The cats certainly like it, since I remember to feed them regularly now.


The appropriately titled "Cult of Done" that has arisen around the concepts presented in that book really, really need to go away and die. Of course, they'd insist that if they can't die RIGHT NOW in front of me, it wouldn't be worth doing, and they should move on to something else. But I don't want that. I don't want to see them, hear them, or deal with their bodies. I want them to achieve two goals:

1) go away.
2) die.

Their little manifesto (linked above) just plain pisses me off, and the reason is simple:

Obsession on action produces nothing useful whatsoever.

Here's my take on their bullshit list:

"The Cult of Done" Manifesto

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
What the FUCK are you, RoboCop? There are NOT three states of being. There are infinite states of being. To harness yourself to such a ludicrous state of mind is to miss out on those glorious states of being like Bliss, Whimsy, Scared-out-of-your-mind-but-doing-it-anyway (think skydiving), Calm, and most importantly Passionate.

I know some will argue that my states of being are congruent with the above three states of being, but I disagree. I believe that what these folks are stating is that you are ignorant until you are no longer ignorant, and the SECOND you know what it is you are to be doing, you MUST START DOING IT RIGHT AWAY UNTIL YOU ARE COMPLETED *BEEP* NEXT COMMAND?

Fuck that. I cannot tell you how many projects I've obsessed over for weeks, just thinking about a plan of attack, only to start and COMPLETELY RETHINK it midstream. And 99 times out of 100, that complete rethink resulted in something SO much better. And 100 times out of 100, it made the project late on delivery. And 100 times out of 100, the client was VERY happy I was late.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
I'd go the exact opposite way. Start by pretending you're editing the final project. The parts that don't exist, imagine them, then edit them. I get SO MUCH MORE done with an "editing" state of mind than a "creation" state of mind. I just let a story or a comp or a video play out in my head the way it's going to play, without injecting a single ounce of "me" into it. Then I just take whats in front of me and make it look like that.

3. There is no editing stage.
See #2. Also, without an editing stage, how the hell can you be sure that your final audience will find the same passion in your project / goal / project you did? How can you go back and clean up what you missed while working? Where's the "clean mind and new eyes" aspect of the creation? ZERO people (except maybe Neil Gaiman) will produce something, come back to it a week later, and tell you they wouldn't change something about it.

4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
I actually don't mind this point. "Fake it until you make it." It works just fine so long as you're not espousing your opinions on the area of your supposed expertise to people who actually know what they're doing, and as long as you're willing to accept failure as an option (which this list does...) when a client or the final audience looks at what you've done and judges it to be of insufficent quality.

These are not bad things. These are how you learn to do what you do better. I am nowhere NEAR an expert in design or writing, and I'm still doing these things. And I take every criticism and use it to hone my skills. Even though I still have a very long way to go, I can look back on my old works and know that I've at least advanced from that point (which is why I hate point #7).

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
Probably my biggest issue with this stupid list. I agree that procrastination can be damaging... But if I abandoned every project I waited more than a week to do, I'd have never written any books, designed any websites, started any workout programs - in short, I wouldn't have to go to the gym EVER because I'd starve from not ever producing a single peice of work in my life.

For many people I know, procrastination is actually part of the workflow. It's the brain going off an focusing on other shit, while the subconscious ruminates over what the work is going to end up being. It's actual productive work that, to middle-managing button-down dickheads the world over, looks like goofing off. They see creative procrastination the same way they see the time they spend wearing Crocs while sitting on their front porch sipping some drink with more than two words in the name, talking to their best-friend-the-sales-guy about that awesome frat party they went to when they were 20.

Not the same.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
You're so right! Everything else is meaningless - a sense of completion, joy in the finish product, pride in your work... FUCK. THAT. Just go to the next thing. Be a machine. I believe They Might Be Giants have a song that'd be a perfect soundtrack for the lives of these ridiculous people.

7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
Applies to the wrappers of cheeseburgers, and not much else. Different people have different methods of moving on to the next thing, but I keep copies of the stuff I do, if for no other reason than to reference it later to see if I've gotten any better since I did [project x]. How can you grow without metrics?

8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
That'll get you far. Never be the best, it's fruitless because it gets in the way of trudging through your task list.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
Two words: Nickolaus Pacione. I wouldn't ever listen to a fucking word that guy said about anything regarding literature, writing, horror, building model trains, cooking an Eggo waffle or anything else. He's a hack. And he's produced three times the amount of material I have.

Doing something does NOT make you right. It just makes you experienced. And experience is a good thing - but it takes much more than accumulated experience to be good at stuff.

You don't get to design the DVD cover for The Dark Knight because you drew one in Photoshop and posted it to DeviantArt. Of course, this is not a fruitless exercise. It's great work to do, fun, exciting, and IF IT IS GOOD ENOUGH and lands in the right hands, who knows - it COULD lead to you doing work on a large budget movie. I guarantee you the guy who did the fanfic poster for the new Batman movie featuring a mocked-up Riddler is working professionally on something right now.

But that's not because he Does Something, it's because he Does Something WELL. And that takes tons of Doing Something, yes... But inbetween the moments of DOING, you have to be thinking and plotting and learning and focusing and letting your mind wander and relaxing and NOT DOING ANYTHING.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
I don't have anything to say about this, except that I've never once counted as "Done" something that sucked, because either a) the client / final audience / whoever rejected it, so what's the point of claiming credit, or b) I threw the damn thing out and started over.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.
Huh? Are we even speaking the same language anymore? Cultists are stupid.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
... Sure ok whatever. I think I'm "Done" responding to this shit. It's clear they just wanted more bullet points in this list. Maybe their criteria of "Done" was "thirteen bullet points" and they just started making shit up that sounded somewhat interesting. Perhaps they should have paid more attention to number 10 and stopped there.

13. Done is the engine of more.
Action breeds action, yes. It's an old axiom, and it's true. But I think that this point needs to be qualified a LOT - it's referring to THEIR definition of "Done," not "Truly Done." And they are exactly right - going through the motions to get something marked off a list will simply lead you to doing it over and over until your stupid list is empty, and you can fill it with more meaningless tasks you'll go through the motions to finish. Yay you, you've just become marginal.


I've seen it my entire career, both in offices and while self-employed. People confuse "doing something" with "doing something meaningful" constantly. I've seen multi-million dollar projects spin and spin and spin with no actual progress made for MONTHS, all the while people were "Getting Things Done." Action items were crossed off hit-lists and developers billed actionable hours, managers reported those actionable hours to their bosses, their bosses told clients Things were Getting Done, and all the while, NOTHING FUCKING WORKED.

If all I did was Get Things Done, there'd be stories on my site alright. There'd be tons and tons of them. And not a one of them would be worth reading (not that they are anyway, but that's another blog post about my frail ego that I'll do another day). They'd be sterile and boring. There'd be NO imagination in telling events, no plays on words, no NOTHING. Just a checkmark on the to-do list.

Let's just say that I doubt very highly that the inventors of the microwave, the television remote control or the automobile gave a rat's ass about being prompt, and cared more about making the damn thing right.

SO, Cult of Done-ers, please go away. And die. And make it snappy - dying is the engine of getting the fuck out of the way of real progress.

*** Update: I recognize that this MIGHT be parody. But it's not clear at all that it is, and that's the problem. Parody / satire should give themselves away at some point. This doesn't. And the GTD cultists (who are NOT kidding) are loving this, taking it to heart and passing it around like it's the new Bible. This piece COULD have been meant as parody, and if it was, it's very funny... But it's failed in its goal, and only further empowered the ideas it intended to mock. SO IT STILL PISSES ME OFF.