2 min read

Action vs Motion

I will always prioritise taking action over being in motion

Actions are the things that bring me closer to my goals by producing an outcome (like writing an article, working out in the gym, or signing the purchase agreement for a house). Motions are the activities that I do to prepare for these actions. Still, they don't produce an outcome (writing down ideas for articles, looking up workout plans, or researching potential houses to buy).

I first learned about this concept in James Clear's book Atomic Habits (one of the best books on self-improvement), and I recommend reading this article as a starting point:

The Mistake Smart People Make: Being In Motion vs. Taking Action
Are you taking action or are you simply in motion? Read this article to discover the common mistake smart people make (and how to avoid it).

A Healthy Relationship

“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.“

Abraham Lincoln

Sharpening the axe is the preparation (Motion) for chopping down the tree (Action). Preparation is important. I shouldn't buy a house without extensive research, and sharpening the axe can significantly reduce the effort needed to chop down a tree, but I have to be aware that only the final Action produces an outcome, and only the result brings me closer to my goals.

When there is a healthy relationship between Action and Motion and all my motions lead to outcome-producing actions, I am on the right path. But, I realise that I spend most of my time in Motion without producing outcomes. James Clear describes this as being stuck in a big circle that turns within itself, continually revealing new tasks I have to do while not moving forward. It is dangerous to misinterpret being busy as being productive and getting stuck in a loop of Motion.


I will be aware of the difference between Action and Motion and try to focus on Action. When I only have time to do one thing, I will perform an outcome-producing task. It is a task I am struggling with, but if I can live following this mindset, it is an immense boost to my productivity.