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This is one of my “favorite” phrases of all time. Primarily because I can relate to the term as a recovering action faker myself.

So, what is action faking anyway? 

Action faking is not something I came up with. The credit goes to MJ DeMarco in one of my favorite books, Unscripted. In his book, DeMarco defines action faking (on page 114-115 of the paperback edition) as: 

“When you take solitary and/or uncommitted action that is NOT a part of a bigger process. Instead, you’re acting not to imbue real change but to ‘feel good’ by momentarily fooling yourself about progress.”

Let’s now look at three symptoms to watch out for so you can avoid action faking like the plague.

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3 Symptoms Of Being An Action Faker

If you notice any of these three things happening in your life, then it’s a major red flag that something is wrong and you’re probably action faking.

#1: You complete massive checklists of tasks, but you aren’t getting any closer to where you want to be—This is one that I’ve struggled with in the past (as I’ll touch on later in this post). 

When you notice this happening, it means that you’re putting meaningless tasks on your checklist to simply feel good about yourself. 

I get it. When you have a lot of tasks on your checklist, and all of those tasks are checked-off, it’s a great feeling. 

Make sure you’re task list includes items that are going to take you closer to your personal goals and objectives. 

#2: You constantly look for shortcuts, hacks, and tricks—If you find yourself seeking out some sort of magical formula, trust me, you’re never going to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Gurus are everywhere promising you magic hacks, tricks, and secrets to solve all of your personal, career, and business problems. If you continually hop from guru-to-guru, this is a clear sign of action faking.   

Instead, find a proven solution to your problem, and go deep with it. Stick to it for an appropriate amount of time rather than seeking out the next shiny object guru to chase after.

When it makes you feel good to learn something new, this is a problem. It should be the implementation that makes you feel good (more on this next). 

#3: You consume an endless amount of content without implementing anything anything you learn—Congratulations, you read 100 books last year. But… did you do anything with the knowledge you gained from those books? 

If the answer to this question is no, then your amazing feat of reading all of those books was action faking. 

Again, when you do something to make yourself feel good and proud without any real progress being made, this is a problem.

My Personal Battles With Action Faking

That comment about reading 100 books last year… that was me looking in the mirror and talking to myself. I read 127 books (to be exact) in 2018.

I’ve historically been someone who consumes a ton of content. 

Books. Podcasts. Articles. Trade Magazines. Training. And on and on.

It feels great to consume so much content. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. However, the reality is too much content is overwhelming, and it stunts our growth.  

Because I identified this problem with content consumption action faking, I’ve taken a different approach in 2019. The approach is to read fewer books, and read books more than once. 

Go deep, not wide. 

On another note…

I mentioned it above, but I’ve always been the ultimate check-list guy. I love to create lists, and I love to see each item on my list checked-off. 

My lists aren’t the problem though. 

The problem is what I put on my lists. 

Now, if each item on my list was taking me a step closer to an ultimate goal in one of the pillars of my life, then that would be a different story. 

I’m now more cognizant of what I’m putting on my list.

The Bottom Line

Make note of when you’re feeling proud about getting things done. When you feel this sense of pride, take a step back and examine whether your pride is from moving closer to your goals or from knocking out meaningless tasks. 

Keep your eyes open…  

Does your bookshelf really need to be reorganized? 

Do you really need to spend 2-3 hours moving your desk from one wall to another wall? 

Is there actual value in creating a spreadsheet to catalogue all of your books? 

Once you know how to avoid action faking, you’ll become so much more productive. I’m talking about legitimate productivity, not fake productivity.

It’s not easy, but we’re in this thing together. 


Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of tech industry knowledge. Ryan has his BBA and MBA from the University of Iowa. Connect with Ryan on Twitter or Instagram.

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