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20 Jun

Leave a loose end consciously

Datum: 2017-06-20 18:09

Some­times we have tasks that need to get done soon but which we for some rea­son tend not to pri­or­i­tize and instead choose to do oth­er tasks. We know we have to do that” (that one, impor­tant task), but we just want to do this” (mean­ing, some­thing else) first. The days pass and we are no clos­er to get­ting start­ed with that which soon needs to be com­plet­ed, and once again, we end up fin­ish­ing it in a hur­ry the night before it is due.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can help our­selves to want to choose that task” before oth­ers and get it done well before it is due.

Take out phys­i­cal­ly instead of writ­ing it down
My good friend Ulla-Lisa told me that in the late after­noon, she takes out, lays out or starts doing what­ev­er it is that she wants to get going with straight away the next morn­ing. Instead of writ­ing the task on tomorrow’s to-do-list before leav­ing the office, like many peo­ple do, she sets the task into motion. As I see it, she leaves a loose end” con­scious­ly in order to make it eas­i­er to choose to con­tin­ue work­ing with it the next time she is back in the same spot or opens her com­put­er again.

The unfin­ished becomes unmissable
If you have been read­ing these recur­ring tips on struc­ture for a while, you might recall the tip I wrote a while back on the Zeigar­nik effect — the phe­nom­e­non iden­ti­fied by the Russ­ian psy­chol­o­gist Bluma Zeigar­nik which sug­gests that it is eas­i­er to remem­ber unfin­ished tasks than com­plet­ed ones. Well actu­al­ly, the unfin­ished ones tend to hang as loose, men­tal ends in our minds and irri­tates” our atten­tion so that we feel an urge to deal with and fin­ish them, and thus metaphor­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly tie the ends for our own peace of mind.

This is a phe­nom­e­na we can take advan­tage of and use to get things done.

Do this
If you cur­rent­ly have some­thing you need to com­plete in the next few days, but find that oth­er tasks steal your atten­tion much too easy, then do this:

  1. Before you leave the office in the after­noon, lay out what­ev­er you want to start with in the morn­ing so that there is no hid­ing from it. You could open the rel­e­vant doc­u­ment or page on your com­put­er, or set out the mate­ri­als you need on your desk. Open the mate­r­i­al to the right page so that you land” straight into the task when you arrive tomor­row morning.

  2. Begin work­ing on the task right now. Start small, real­ly small, but at least start so that you will have men­tal­ly focused on the task and thus leave a men­tal loose end” when leav­ing the office. It can be as lit­tle as a minute of work and then you stop in the mid­dle of doing some­thing — with­out putting any­thing away before leaving.

  3. When you are back at the office (per­haps after a good night’s rest), notice if and how the mate­ri­als you have left on the desk call for your atten­tion, and if you feel any dif­fer­ent about get­ting the task done.

  4. If it so hap­pens that when you arrive where you need to be to do the task, it no longer has the high­est pri­or­i­ty at that very moment, then put away the things you had opened or tak­en out to do the task. Close the doc­u­ments, remove the icon from the desk­top, put away the phys­i­cal papers or mate­ri­als, and make it into a to-do-task instead. If you don’t, it will only dis­tract you from what you real­ly and whole­heart­ed­ly, giv­en these new cir­cum­stances, need to focus on right now.

Remem­ber to only leave one loose end at a time, not sev­er­al (even if you have lots of tasks that need to get done soon). Hav­ing many loose ends simul­ta­ne­ous­ly will only make you feel more stressed, since all loose ends will drain you of men­tal ener­gy as long as they remain unfin­ished”, accord­ing to the Zeigar­nik effect.

Easy to get it right
If you con­scious­ly and delib­er­ate­ly leave a loose end you will help your­self get this impor­tant task done as soon as you are back to where you left it, if we are to trust what Bluma Zeigar­nik con­clud­ed. It will be eas­i­er to get going with what you need to fin­ish and you decrease the risk of get­ting dis­tract­ed by oth­er tasks that you could just as well fin­ish anoth­er time.

Any oth­er ideas?
How do you ensure that you get going with some­thing you know you need to fin­ish as soon as you are back at a cer­tain loca­tion? Per­haps you have oth­er ideas or tips? Please leave a com­ment and share them.