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!”.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Define that last and final step as a to-do-task using a concrete verb.
- 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.
- 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!