Motion vs Action

July 15, 2013

“There is a common mistake that often happens to smart people — in many cases, without you ever realizing it.

The mistake has to do with the difference between being in motion and taking action. They sound similar, but they’re not the same.” – James Clear, The Mistake Smart People Make: Being In Motion vs. Taking Action

Skim through that article real quick, and then come back and we’ll talk.

Done? Good.

In my last post I talked about focusing on a few things and ruthlessly cutting away the rest. I was talking about entire projects, but I would take that even further and cut away all unnecessary tasks even within the projects you keep. If you understand the difference between motion and action, this is easier to do.

I’ll give you an example. The book I’m working on has been a long time coming. Not only did I finish the first draft back in late 2011, I got the idea for it a long time before that. I ended up wasting literally years of my life on what amounted to a lot of motion but very little action, and I have almost nothing to show it, save for this lesson.

You see, when I first thought up my story, I kept getting a bunch of other ideas, and being the compulsive note taker that I am, I wrote them all down. But now I had a new problem – I had all these notes strewn across my desk and filling up my computer, but I couldn’t find a damn thing in them. I felt like I needed to deal with all these notes before I could really start writing, so that’s what I worked on. But as I did, I kept getting more and more ideas, and the notes grew, and all this time I wasn’t actually writing a damn thing. It was all motion, no action.

Eventually, I had a watershed moment (of which I’ll talk about more another day), and I started actually writing. Now I hardly pay attention to notes – I have a few for what I’m writing right now, but no more than a page or three. For the rest, I just chunk them into Evernote and forget about them. The act of writing them down will help me remember them, or not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the action – the writing.

In whatever you’re working on, think about all the different tasks you do all the time. Which ones directly contribute to the outcome you’re working towards, and which ones are just more work? Sometimes motion is necessary to prepare for action, but not as often as we think.

Ignore motion, focus on action. That’s the only way to actually get to where you’re going in the end.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply

    Write it down…and then forget it – Stilts Out Loud

    […] next time you find yourself spending too much time on your notes, as I once did, stop. You got most of the benefit when you wrote them down. Instead, keep thinking, keep […]

  2. Reply


    Your book sounds like the one that kicked my butt called “WHAT’s STOPPING YOU? why smart people don’t always reach their potential and how you can”

    1. Reply


      Ahhh, don’t misunderstand, I like to talk about writing in general here, but that’s not what my book is about. It’s a fiction story, fantasy to be exact.

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