The Time Academy Podcast: A Unique Time Management Podcast!

The Episode at a Glance

  • Whilst often used almost interchangeably, when you start unpicking Doing and Accomplishing you realise that they can lead to two very different life paths.
  • Imagine, instead of having a to-do list, you had a to-accomplish list?
  • How would that feel?
  • The invitation then is to gradually switch from thinking about “tasks to be done” and instead focus on “outcomes to be accomplished”.

Listen to the Episode


My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are talking about Doing versus Accomplishing.

Whilst often used almost interchangeably, once you start unpicking the words “Doing” and “Accomplishing” you realise how fundamentally different they are. In fact, which of these two concepts we choose to embrace can have a deep impact on our lives. Now, there is clearly some overlap but if you look at the key synonyms doing is about performance, execution, implementation – to my mind this can be summarized in the word “effort”. Accomplishment on the other hand is about achievement, exploit, attainment, which to my mind can be reduced to “outcome”. The difference really jumps out – to me at least – when we ask these two questions:

– Can I do something without accomplishing anything?

– Can I accomplish something without doing anything?

So, I’m not saying you can accomplish great things without putting in the effort and yet by focussing on doing we can miss the big picture and the opportunities that present themselves to jump ten steps ahead rather than slogging through the mud. It is about viewing everything through the lens of “how do I achieve maximum output for minimum input?”

The question then is – how do we make this real? Well, the first step is to gradually switch from thinking about “tasks to be done” and instead focus on “outcomes to be accomplished”.

I constantly see clients, colleagues, friends and family staring down the tunnel of busyness – ploughing through an endless list of to-dos but often without any real clarity as to what it will truly accomplish. What will they have at the end of the day? At the end of the week? Month? A question I often ask is, “If you’re not clear on the outcome, how do you know that what you are doing is even necessary?”

Email is a perfect example for most of us. I used to live in my inbox – I instinctively applied an empty inbox concept – open each email once, deal with it, archive it. It is hyper efficient in terms of managing email but it is a major distraction and productivity-killer if you deal with each email one by one. I got a lot of email done but was it really worth doing this during the most productive times of my day? So I asked myself– “what do I want to accomplish in managing my inboxes?”

I know I really only have a small number of hours when I’m really focussed and there are typically other things I want to accomplish during that time. So in changing from doing – keeping my inboxes nice and tidy – to accomplishing and asking that question it became clear to me that what I really wanted was to carve out more calm during my day. I wanted to be able to fully focus on the conversations I was having and on more focused work and my email habit was a distraction. In terms of email what I really wanted was “Deal with email in a timely respectful way but in a way that doesn’t distract me from the people and work I’m engaging with today”. So I set up some email responders to help others manage their expectations and not to expect an instant reply. A thoughtful reply hours later would be fine.

So, in closing, the hope with all this is to build our reflexes so that before we dive into our to-do lists we have the opportunity to reflect on outcomes and ask ourselves: “What might I make easier?”

Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.