An experiment in finishing stuff

One area I’ve struggled with consistently as far back as I can remember has been finishing things. I’ve always been good at having good ideas, and–just as often–not carrying them out. IOW, really good at the R part of R&D, not so great at the D. This is something I’ve resolved to change about myself, and tomorrow (Friday) marks the end of four weeks of a focus on finishing things. Some stuff was important, a lot of it wasn’t. At work, I tried to finish the highest-value tasks, or things I’d promised others, and at home, I tried to finish the most important things, and the things that brought me happiness or satisifaction.

  • Finished two books, on my way to finishing a third
  • Finished 3 different long-term projects that I’d had on my back burner for months
  • Started and finished some high-value policy guidance, from development through socialization
  • A bunch of housekeeping on my Linode backend (more than six months overdue!)
  • My SO and I restructured our finances to better plan for the future
  • Got numerous things with external gating factors back on track

Anyway, this hasn’t been a month where I’ve worked harder. It’s been a month where I’ve worked smarter. I’ve never been an adherent of any particular productivity school, but I do borrow from several (GTD, kanban). Here are a couple of things I did:

  • Didn’t even try to start new things if I could avoid it; I simply added them and added them to my backlog
  • Eliminated some low-value stuff entirely (why do low-value stuff at all?)
  • Carved out calendar time in my day for next steps, immediately after completing pre-requisites. (This ensures adequate time, and a regular delivery cadence.)
  • I’ve always been an inbox zero kind of guy. That didn’t change, and it remained a producitivity (and happiness) multiplier.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies, however. Balancing the reactive, “operational” side of my job with the planful, inside-your-own-head development stuff that provides the real, long-term organizational value remains a challenge.

Here’s a good talk by Adam Savage–of Mythbusters fame–that really resonated with me. I feel like I’m good at (and regularly do) all the stuff, except for maybe the last three minutes. That I saw this video while working on finishing stuff was purely coincidental.

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