How to get things done when the work never ends

Do you find your work ongoing, your to-do list never-ending? Does it feel like there’s always something else to do – as soon as one thing is done you’re moving onto the next thing?

Here’s the bad news – the work never ends. The nature of much of our work these days is that there’s always more you can do – more ideas, more calls, more campaigns, more research, more tweaking, more thinking, more clicking you can do…

Which is why it can be hard to find momentum and motivation, and easy for inertia and procrastination to set in. After all, if there’s just more work ahead, what’s the incentive for getting on with it and getting it done?

I’ve just finished another round of 40 Days of Baby Steps – where I coach a group of people through their 40 day project, the same way I got my book written.

One of the things that makes this process so powerful is the finish line. 

Everyone commits to delivering something in 40 days: a new website live, an SEO campaign underway, a product launched. There’s a definite finish line.

Without a finish line, it’s easy to lose momentum, and for the project to creep. The product is never quite ready to be launched, the website still needs tweaking, the SEO campaign becomes so long and arduous, you find yourself reluctantly trudging along rather than powering through.

Without a finish line, it’s easy to get distracted by shiny things “I’ll just take a look at this first”.

Or quick wins “I’ll just deal with this first… oh and that one…”

And get stalled by the enormity of it all “woah that’s a long way to go, I’m going to have to wait until I have more time. Better make that cup of tea…” 

When there’s a finish line in sight, you’ve got something to aim for. It gives you direction, definition and a reason to muster up the strength and sprint ahead. So as well as our 40 day finish line, we also had weekly check-ins, where everyone declared and committed to their own weekly finish line.

One of my Baby Steppers in particular discovered the power of honouring that finish line.  

She was one of those people who had a tendency to go all guns blazing at the beginning of a project, full of enthusiasm and adrenaline, so much a so that in those early days, it would not be unusual for her to get more done than she set out to do. She’d power through her to-do list, find she still had time left in the day, and add a few more jobs in.

But after a while she’d burn out. She’d run out of energy. And start becoming aware of everything else in life she had put on hold, then wonder how on earth she could ever fit it all in.

Instead, in her 40 days, she decided to honour her finish line. Whenever she got to the end of her to-do list, she gave herself permission to stop. Instead of doing ‘just one more thing’, she took a break, clocked off early, celebrated ‘done’ and enjoyed the time for herself.

The result? She found herself with far more energy throughout the 40 days. Instead of running as fast as she could for the first couple of days, and running out of steam, she was able to keep pace, and keep going. Yes there were peaks and troughs during that time – some weeks were more productive than others, but ultimately she procrastinated less, got more done, took more breaks and enjoyed greater satisfaction. She got everything she wanted to get done before the summer holidays, and showed herself she could do it without killing herself.

So the bad news is, the work never ends. But the good news is we get to create our own finish lines. We get to define what job done looks like. When we honour those finish lines, when we enjoy life beyond the finish line, each race is satisfying, and we find we have more than enough to keep going.

What about you? What are you working on right now? What’s your finish line? Drop me a line and let me know – I’d love to hear from you!

  • naomirichards

    Grace, I think this is so true. I love to give myself finish lines. The way I do it is by setting date deadlines. I have to complete something by this date. It works for me. The work is never done but we can trick ourselves into thinking that it is done for today and yes – time for that cup of tea.

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