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30 Mar

Define the final step once you have taken the first

Datum: 2023-03-30 11:00
A white marble stairway leads up to a bright light. Could it possibly be heaven?

In order to get going with an exten­sive task or project that needs doing, we define the first step as a to-do-task and com­plete it. This is a par­tic­u­lar­ly good way of get­ting mov­ing with tasks we have been postponing.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Call it by its true name

What­ev­er we have to do that would fall under the cat­e­go­ry of exten­sive”, that con­sists of sev­er­al steps and which will require more than a day’s work, is in the con­text of struc­ture referred to as a project. It could be a clas­sic project with a man­age­ment team, project group, and a project plan, but it might as well be oth­er things we have to do which we need to return to once in a while and com­plete bit by bit before con­sid­er­ing it done!”.

The for­ev­er-and-ever-projects

But, a com­mon theme I often come by when meet­ing my mentees, is that many of our projects seem to nev­er end. They are list­ed on the project overview we have assem­bled and there they remain — week in and week out, through­out this year and onto the next. We nev­er feel that we are tru­ly done with them, that they are fin­ished and can once and for all be checked off our list.

Fol­low­ing close­ly to fin­ish­ing what might be regard­ed as a round” of that which we call project, is yet anoth­er round of the same thing. This could for instance be some kind of mar­ket­ing activ­i­ty, estab­lish­ing some­thing new, plan­ning or improv­ing some­thing. For one of my more ambi­tious mentees, this type of project cur­rent­ly involves pur­chas­ing next sea­sons col­lec­tion of clothes for the store.

But when is it finished?

Sure­ly you feel, just as I do, that it gives a sense of both relief and moti­va­tion to tick off com­plet­ed to-do-tasks from our list. And it is nat­u­ral­ly equal­ly sat­is­fy­ing to cross off the more exten­sive tasks and projects as well. We have com­plet­ed some­thing and have got­ten more space to fill with new projects and tasks. Wonderful!

But, if we have not made it clear to our­selves exact­ly when we can con­sid­er the project com­plet­ed, they will remain active on our list and we nev­er get to feel that sense of accom­plish­ment and sat­is­fac­tion when mark­ing it as done.

This is exact­ly why you should make it utter­ly clear to your­self what the cri­te­ria for com­plet­ing your projects are, and thus when you can cross it off and con­sid­er it done.

Do this

  1. Take out your project overview. Per­haps you can see it in your to-do-list since you might have grouped the to-do-tasks accord­ing to what project they con­cern. Or per­haps you have it in a sep­a­rate format.
  2. For each and every project, deter­mine what the last thing you will need to do before you can con­sid­er the whole thing done is, even if this step might not be tak­en for years from now.
    • Is it to place all the doc­u­men­ta­tion in the archive?
    • … to sub­mit the final report?
    • … to pub­lish the result?
    • … to sign the deal?
    • … to attest the last invoice?
  3. Define that last and final step as a to-do-task using a con­crete verb.
  4. Add the task to your to-do-list and begin the entry with The final step: ” or some­thing like that, so that it is clear that once you have done this step, you are done with the entire project.
  5. When every project has got­ten a clear final step added to the to-do-list, you are done for now.

A clear end­ing feels much better

After hav­ing done this, you will be able to check more projects off your list and feel more con­tent and sat­is­fied over your progress, since it is now clear when they are tru­ly done. Instead of that famil­iar feel­ing of that things just keep pil­ing up”, you will feel that you are indeed mak­ing progress and accom­plish­ing your objectives.

What is your way?

How do you make it absolute­ly clear to your­self that you have com­plet­ed a project? A pen­ny for your thoughts. Share them with me!

(By the way, I found five ways to smooth­ly cap­ture progress in a project.)

Writing utensils such as pens and erasers arranged in a neat circle.

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