The Mindset to Getting Things Done: Think Result-Oriented

Image credit: Russell Lee, FSA

Image credit: Russell Lee, FSA

Questioner: “How do you take on the bureaucracy that damages so many organizations?”

Jack Welch: “Damages? How about deadens?
That’s a better word to describe what bureaucracy does; it sucks the life out of a business … Kafkaesque … kick bureaucracy: At every chance, poke fun at anyone who tries to install process for process’s sake; rib people who get all puffy about their positions or titles.What you want is…A business where an idea’s value has nothing to do with the stripes on the shoulder of the person behind it…” (source)

I recently made some changes in how I approach my daily work life. I switched more to a result-oriented thinking. Again. Since I already learned the value of result-oriented thinking when it comes to getting things done. If the productivity and time-management information is not really working for you it may not be the technique but the engine running it …

The Mindset of Getting Things Done

There are two basic mindsets about something we want to do:

1. Process oriented

What does the task mean? What will happen on the way to get there? How does it feel if I do it?Those may be the questions we ask internally if we adopt this mindset. The problem: if you don’t feel very good doing the necessary things, you might not give the best you could. This could lead to always trying to go the easy way and to avoid the tougher but sometimes necessary ways.

2. Result oriented

How can I achieve this? What do I have to do now to get there? How does getting the result feel?If you think result oriented, you tend to see the end in your mind and you are looking for the fastest way to go there. You want to have the result. This means that you become much more focused on action “flowing” towards the result.

There may be some other mindsets when it comes to getting things done, such as the relationship oriented where you ask yourself “What does this task mean to my relationship to the people involved?” I seriously think that in general woman are more into this mindset.

Advantage 1: Flexibility

But the basic difference is the process vs. result orientation. If you think in results, the way to get the result is not that important. What matters is the result itself. This means that your way to get things done stays very flexible . If approach one did not work, doesn’t matter much! The approach was not important, the result is. So we just change the approach to a better one. We don’t get stuck in a process or even in the thick of processes.

So flexibility is one major advantage in the result oriented mindset.

Advantage 2: Drive to Action

Another even more important one is the drive to action . If you want the result you usually want it now. This produces a lot of potential energy to invest into the actions to the result. What I experience is that the anticipation of the result is what makes the process actually enjoyable, even if the task in itself is pretty boring.

An Example: Washing the Dishes

Here is an example when you are about to “clean the dishes”:

Washing the dishes process oriented:

“Ahwww, what an awful boring task again! I have to take the plates and glasses and make them clean. Then use the towel, dry them and put them into the cupboard.”

Washing the dishes result oriented:

“I want to have a clean and nice kitchen. What do I have to do to get the result? I have to wash the dishes, the plates and glasses and I put them into the cupboard then. So let’s get moving! I want to have my sweet clean kitchen back. … hmm, washing the dishes is not that bad actually ;)”

While it may not be that unbiased it makes the point clear: if you know why you are doing it, you are more motivated to take action having your result in mind. The same applies to all kind of usually more complex tasks of the information-age. Result-orientation simply makes it faster and easier to succeed.

Result-Orientation and the Present Moment

But …

… let me share this little story from the book “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh about being in the present moment:

The Cup in Your Hands:

In the United States, I have a close friend named Jim Forest.  When I first met him eight years ago, he was working with the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  Last winter, Jim came to visit.  I usually wash the dishes after we’ve finished the evening meal, before sitting down and drinking tea with everyone else.

One night, Jim asked if he might do the dishes.

I said, “Go ahead, but if you wash the dishes you must know the way to wash them.”

Jim replied, “Come on, you think I don’t know how to wash the dishes?”

I answered, “There are two ways to was the dishes.  The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”

Jim was delighted and said, “I choose the second way–to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”

From then on, Jim knew how to wash the dishes.  I transferred the “responsibility” to him for an entire week.

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.”  What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes.  In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink.

If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either.  While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands.  Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

…from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

Hmm.. this kinda contradicts my first conclusion, doesn’t it? I’m really curious. What do you think?

And secondly, do you honestly wash the dishes to wash the dishes or to have clean dishes?

About the author Myrko Thum

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41 Comments

  • Harry Chittenden

    December 9, 2008

    I like your idea of putting a positive spin on an otherwise boring task. In fact, I do like the look of a clean kitchen. On the other hand, even though I’m fairly mindful about the task, I still find it very boring and almost always procrastinate. Maybe not so mindful as conscientious. Maybe I should be less conscientious and more mindful. Maybe I should buy a dishwasher.

    Harry Chittenden´s last blog post: Bones Foretell Future Waistline

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  • Myrko

    December 9, 2008

    Hehe yap, I’ll go with the dishwasher :)
    It can be a spiritual experience as stated in the last part of the post. But then again everything else can be too.

    ReplyReply
  • Vincent

    December 9, 2008

    Hi Myrko,

    Great article. By focusing on the results instead of process, we can definitely be much more flexible in getting things done. It definitely help us to see results.

    Vincent´s last blog post: Learn How To Get The Most Sincere Smile In 16 Minutes and 23 Seconds

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  • Matt

    December 9, 2008

    I don’t think the latter excerpt contradicts your point at all. The two ideas are complimentary. Like everything in life, you need to learn to balance these two dynamics.

    If you think only of the result (unknown future state) then you miss the actual process of living. However, thinking of the result allows you to use your time more efficiently. So, per the above blurb, you might find the right balance to be – “wash the dishes to have clean dishes” followed by “Drinking tea to drink tea”.

    Just a thought.

    ReplyReply
  • MonkMojo

    December 9, 2008

    Dish washing happens. The result is space for more dirty dishes.

    MonkMojo´s last blog post: Obama selects MonkMojo as Spiritual Advisor

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    December 10, 2008

    Matt, I came to the same conclusion. Similar as with Yin & Yang, balance is the key.

    And to know when we need which side. If I am intensivly result-oriented I will make progress. I will change my surrounding reality to what I want. If I want to experience life to the fullest, even in spiritual way, I do this in the moment.

    In spirituality we often have this enphasis on the being in the present moment. Does it mean to lose grip on my result-orientation? It seems so, or I do something seriously wrong ;) …

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    December 13, 2008

    Hey Ariel, I was just back on your site reading about Mind and Consciousness :)

    ReplyReply
  • Ariel

    December 12, 2008

    Cool article, Myrko. I liked the flexibility point and how it helps us not be attached to what’s happening in the moment.

    The bit at the end about being alive and noticing what is while doing the dishes, man, that’s so key! :)

    Ariel´s last blog post: Are Mind and Consciousness the Same Thing?

    ReplyReply
  • Evita

    December 15, 2008

    Myrko this post and the lesson within it is priceless!

    The dish example especially was brilliant because we do that with so many things in our lives not snapping out of these unconscious driven states and realizing hey, wait a minute I am doing this to have a nicer, better, more pleasant, etc… existence for me and hence to take pride and enjoyment in our own personal creations.

    Evita´s last blog post: The Voices of Angels Around Us

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    December 15, 2008

    Oh, yes. Another message of the post is also balance. I personally have the strong feeling that balance (as in yin and yang) is also needed here. I’m talking about the balance of enjoying the process and creating the desired result. For me, to bring those two together is sometimes a challenge. If you enjoy the process to much and live in the now, it seems like losing the drive to create results. The necessity and urgency of it vanishes – you fall behind, for instance to the competition. If you are focused in the results, you are in the danger of missing the moment. Finding the balance seems to be the key, doesn’t it?

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  • Shulie

    December 24, 2008

    I agree that these two things can be complementary. If you enjoy the process you can get into the zone, and you can achieve an incredible amount. But I guess before you can really begin you have to put into perspective and think why am I doing this. Once you have that long-term motivation in back of your mind and then you can have this ardor for what you are doing at the moment you can achieve great things. In fact I think they are both integral for high achievement. The only challenge is not getting too caught on the unnecessary details, like perfectionism. But otherwise this is a great approach. They really go hand in hand

    ReplyReply
  • I really liked the analysis.

    Having the flexible mindset in finding a way to a goal is great.

    Jarrod – Warrior Development´s last blog post: Expect Nothing about Life and Take Everything

    ReplyReply
  • Armen Shirvanian

    January 6, 2009

    Breaking it down into being process-oriented or result-oriented is a sensible way to make the division, as you have presented here. Process-oriented individuals will be more geared towards continuing an activity that they are working on, so as to maintain the smooth flow towards a goal. The result-oriented person will keep the end-result in mind, as they go through the procedure at various speeds. The way you describe result-oriented thinking does add some validity to it.

    Armen Shirvanian´s last blog post: Wisely Playing the Ultimatum Game

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  • Ian

    January 30, 2009

    It’s amazing how much time you save when you move to results oriented. You spend less time messing around, procrastinating, and more time completing the task. This, of course, can be done mindfully as well – it’s the best of both approachs.

    ReplyReply
  • Sharon Wilson

    February 14, 2009

    Great analysis. I think the two are related and compliment each other.

    Sharon Wilson´s last blog post: Does Asking People to Pay for What You Are Offering as an Entrepreneur Make You Feel Bad?

    ReplyReply
  • Focussing one’s mind in accomplishing a job would give prudent results. Its a strong will power and determination in getting the task done no matter at times when things seem impossible.

    ReplyReply
  • Amy Lundberg

    February 24, 2009

    Great minds think alike. The info shared here by the team makes me feel so.

    ReplyReply
  • Good move!
    I call it outcome oriented.
    I liked to the advantages you list here for result-orientation. Do not discard process orientation so fast. To achieve best results your process must be constantly improved – this is the basic Kaizen believe. So be focused on results, but monitor and constantly improve your process.

    Alik Levin | PracticeThis.com´s last blog post: What Your Kid Knows About Creativity

    ReplyReply
  • Matt

    May 9, 2009

    Great post, interesting dilemma at the end. Can one be goal oriented and mindful, i feel that if your goal is to be mindful you can. Doing the dishes while being aware of their result can allow us to be present in that moment instead of resenting it. Perhaps the examples are using the same action but are talking about it from different angles. Who knows, but it makes you think, and thats the important thing.

    Matt´s last blog post: mindfulness and happiness

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  • taney

    July 21, 2009

    Process-oriented and result-oriented is a unique perspective and outlook. I believe that result-oriented is pretty frank; being that you’re focusing on the result. When you focus on the result, you will reach your goals not in the ways intended; but maybe even a more efficient and effective way! You get to adapt and adjust accordingly as you progress to your main objective. It’s such a more promising attitude! Keep up the good writing! (=
    .-= taney’s last blog .. Guiding Through Change =-.

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  • Geoff

    October 20, 2009

    I think goal oriented versus remaining mindful in the moment are not contradictory modes but complementary. Without a goal, we would never wash the dishes, indeed we would not do much of anything, other than eat, sleep, and stay dry. On the other hand, if we live only for the result, we miss the Now, and the reality that life is a journey not a destination. The goal can help us overcome resistance to action. Once we are working, if we pay attention to the Now, we may find that the task is not so bad as we imagined.

    ReplyReply
  • Lisa Hurtt

    April 20, 2010

    Great post! That’s very interesting. I think goal oriented versus remaining mindful in the moment are not contradictory modes but complementary.

    ReplyReply
  • SpiritualHorseman

    July 2, 2010

    Thanks for this wonderful post. Here are some more great posts on taking action:

    http://spiritualhorseman.wordpress.com/tag/action/

    Hopefully, your visitors will find them relevant. Great Post!

    ReplyReply
  • Jehh

    July 25, 2010

    Results oriented! Amen! I feel progress on my personal development. Thank you!

    ReplyReply
  • Auto Blog Samurai Bonus

    September 15, 2010

    well,you think only of the result (unknown future state) then you miss the actual process of living. However, thinking of the result allows you to use your time more efficiently. So, per the above blurb, you might find the right balance to be – “wash the dishes to have clean dishes” followed by “Drinking tea to drink tea”.Thanks

    ReplyReply
  • June

    October 8, 2010

    hi,
    focus on result instead of journey, so we will be more flexible..
    Great idea, thanks for it.

    ReplyReply
  • Komodo Dragon

    January 4, 2011

    For sure, the result is what drives you on further along. Some people need to see results every step of the way more often while some are content to work patiently toward achieving a goal in the long run.

    ReplyReply
  • Yuri

    May 12, 2011

    one thing at a time: when planning, just plan, when doing just do.
    theres no need to be thinking of the delicious prize at the end while doing the dishes.

    ReplyReply
  • nana

    August 8, 2011

    If the person is too much result oriented, what will happened?

    ReplyReply
  • textbook rental

    October 10, 2011

    I had to be more goal orientated lately as well. I work at home so it is easy to get distracted but i have found that if I make a routine and stick to it things go a lot more smoothly. IT allows me the time to get work done and not be distracted.

    ReplyReply
  • Ramkumar

    October 16, 2011

    Good Article.
    Process Oriented people are those who would like to live in the present too which thus leads into the future. i.e, they are not willing to sacrifice their present for their future.
    Result Oriented people are those who would like to satisfy their future needs and thus are willing to satisfy their present for their future. They do not care if they do work hard today but in the end they can be happy tomorrow.
    What is the key to life is being process-oriented. This is of course sometimes affecting productivity/companies in the short term but in the longer term products are created like a work of art instead of some shabby unsustainable piece of work.
    Scientific Research and Art is process-oriented whereas administration/ implementing software is result-oriented although nowadays enough geeks are there to make software development process oriented.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    October 16, 2011

    Isn’t it like so repeatedly, that you have to bring both worlds together…?

    ReplyReply
  • Owen

    June 8, 2012

    Found this post when doing annual performance review. I have to say, this is a wonderful article. The core of result-oriented is you know exactly what you want before doing something. Agree with Ian, “You spend less time messing around, procrastinating, and more time completing the task.”

    ReplyReply
  • Glynis Jolly

    December 4, 2012

    I was reading your post, Don’t Think, Do. Because I am one who has been process oriented and have been left feeling that I’m not getting as far as I should, I clicked on your link to this post.

    You do have a contradiction going on here. To tell you the truth, I wash the dishes to wash the dishes. You see, washing dishes is therapeutic for those of us who have a rough time with anxiety. It’s really quite calming.

    Nevertheless, I think I do need to switch my motivation tactics so that I’m thinking more about the result.

    Good post.

    ReplyReply
  • John

    July 8, 2013

    Myrko,
    You have a misguided understanding of what process orientation is and how it works. Process orientation puts the impetus on correctly doing the right things that lead to success – it has nothing to do with how you feel about a task – and then learning from the results so that you can improve upon them. A process oriented person is able to audit their behavior constantly while not losing sight of a goal. In general, nearly all overwhelmingly successful people in life are process oriented, not results oriented. The best coaches don’t even consider how many championships they’ve won, but instead focus on maximizing the effectiveness of each and every team they are in charge of. The best teachers seek tremendous improvement from all their students and challenge A students and C students alike to continually get better at what they do. Sure the “results” happen, but they happen naturally as part of the process of improvement. Read “Mindset” by Carol Dweck for an in depth discussion of why your thinking is both wrong and harmful to the development of humans.

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  • Tomer

    December 17, 2013

    Good article, great insights on being results oriented.

    I think it’s ok to simply disagree with the example in the end – we wash dishes to have them clean. That’s all.
    Meaning – we need to distinguished where we should only be result oriented (washing dishes is insignificance to our life, hence washing machines make more sense) and when though guided by the result, we should also be fully engaged in the process.

    For example, I’m producing a music album for an artist, I can just be focusing on the result – having all parts recorded, because if I’ll do that I won’t be in the moment of creation and the result would be mediocre. Hence, if my result in this case is “a beautiful inspiring revolutionary record” than out of this result I should understand that the way to achieve it is to actually be fully engaged in the process.

    Would love to hear your view on such an example.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    December 17, 2013

    Yes, sometimes you need to be creative and inspired. Other times you simply want to get the job done.

    The art is to know when to use which, or — as in the example with the dishes — even be able to join both ideas into one.

    The idea of the last paragraph “The Cup in Your Hands” is actually to stay conscious and present in whatever you do — and realise you are alive.

    Getting a dish-washer is something completely different of course. ;-)

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  • Cristian

    April 10, 2014

    I think process oriented is more important in long-term goals, when a final result is palpable only after a months or years of effort. When it’s a simple task of washing dishes the result oriented works like a charm. There’s nothing enticing about washing dishes, although I may be wrong, I have a friend who says washing dishes makes her relax. Ultimately it’s a mix of both (results & process) that get you there, it just depends on the situation and goal.

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  • Myrko Thum

    April 11, 2014

    @Cristian: Yes, but I think for long-term goals you would break those down into short-term goals, or even to-dos. So it becomes the same process again.

    Washing the dishes may not be enticing. That’s exactly the perspective of result-orientation. The WHY behind it or in other words the reward isn’t that big. Looking at it from a time-management perspective, it is probably not a good investment of your time.

    But the other perspective here is that while you wash the dishes, you can become completely present in the moment and actually enjoy yourself and the process. It’s like an exercise in spiritual presence.

    And that’s exactly the bigger purpose of this post, showing this “conflict”:

    If you want to be effective the end-result matters most.
    If you want to be awake, the end-result doesn’t matter as much as the awakeness.

    As said, combining both is probably the ideal way.

    ReplyReply

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