Get one’s act together

Get one’s act together is an idiom with an uncertain origin. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase get one’s act together, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To get one’s act together means to get organized, to make a plan and carry it out, to get serious and apply oneself to the matter at hand. The phrase get one’s act together is usually used when a person has been scatterbrained, lazy, or inefficient. The idiom get one’s act together came into use in the 1960s, but has an uncertain origin. Certainly, it has something to do with readying for a performance, the word act referring to a routine performed before an audience. Perhaps it refers to the idea put forth in William Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” Related phrases are gets one’s act together, got one’s act together, gotten one’s act together, getting one’s act together.

Examples

As a pastor, I often hear the same story in different places that usually begins with something like this: “I believed that in order for me to attend worship (with a particular congregation) that I must first get my act together, to get clean, to remove all sin from my life.” (The Longview News-Journal)

The magistrate overseeing the trial of former homicide detective Gary Jubelin has encouraged NSW police to “get their act together­” after new statements from new witnesses seemed to “magically appear” after the hearing had begun. (The Australian)

But Duncanville coach Reginald Samples said it wasn’t until the last third of the season that Rakestraw finally bought into what the coaches were saying and got his act together off the field. (The Dallas Morning News)