Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Habit of Finishing

ABC: Always Be Closing - an acronym made famous by Ben Affleck and his team of con men in the movie Boiler Room.  ABC dictates that a sales pitch, good customer service or candor counts for nothing unless the potential customer actually buys what you're selling.  It's a very results-based outlook that uses the end to justify the means.

The other end of the spectrum entails hesitation and tentativeness, where a project or deal indefinitely remains a "Work in Progress."  Sometimes, the information you have may be subject to change, which is why you will plaster the word TENTATIVE or DRAFT (formatted in Word Art) across your report.  Maybe your deal is pending senior approval or legal clearance.  So in a few instances, a lack of finality is acceptable.  The danger comes in when the words tentative and draft are used to buy time or procrastinate.

I have over 400 blog posts that exist in the draft phase.  What happens is I note down a brief opening that summarizes what the post will be about, give it a title, save it as a draft and resolve to complete it at another stage.  When I re-open a draft days or weeks later though, I usually struggle to expand on that initial opening -- the train of thought I had when I first noted it has been lost.  I then end up writing about something different that comes more 'easily' to me at the time, or about nothing at all.

There are a few instances where my excuses for not completing a post on the spot are valid (like having no access to a computer and only a mobile phone), but most of them I realized amount to some combination of procrastination and laziness.

I've since resolved to complete a post once I've started it, with the exception being if I'm away from my computer (typing from even the smartest smart phone is painful).  In that instance, writing the opening from my phone and saving it for completion later on is acceptable.    

Similarly, if your work is tentative or exists as a draft, there must only be a very limited group of reasons you should accept for not finishing.  When you keep an item as a work-in-progress, it hinders you from engaging new projects and work, which in turn stunts your long term progress.  At the end of the day one needs to produce a finished product, because a work-in-progress is as good as nothing to the end user or customer.

If you're working on a large scale project that cannot be finished quickly, then milestones can act as interim checkpoints for you to aim towards.  With large projects you must always have a definitive stage of completion you are working towards.    

Will power is a muscle that becomes stronger the more you finish things.  Completing subsequent tasks and overcoming challenges then becomes easier.  You brain begins to form powerful references and starts to identify you as a person that finishes the job.  Like procrastination, finishing things is a habit.  Their consequences though couldn't be more different.

Prolific: Memos on Creativity, Productivity, Work and Fulfilment.
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