Tie up loose ends so you don't get caught in a tangle
Have you ever had one of those days when you've been busy all day, but don't have much to show for it? Days when it may even be difficult to remember what you have done? These sorts of days are usually the result of bouncing from one thing to the other, rather than staying focused on one task until you’ve completed it. And the mental clutter that results from unfinished tasks distracts us even more from the task at hand. The result? Mental fatigue without much accomplishment.
Tie the Bow
Instead of bouncing from one thing to the next, make “tie the bow” your new mantra. I use “tie the bow” as a metaphor for completing a task down to the very last step – when you're wrapping a gift, it’s not done until you “tie the bow.” As I go through my day, I try to remain always conscious of staying on-track until I complete the last step of each task.
Mail the letter; don't just put it aside to mail later. File the paper; don't just put it in a pile of paperwork. Fold and put away the laundry; don't just leave it in the basket after it’s washed and dried. When a task is larger, the key is to break it down into defined smaller tasks that you can bring to completion so that you can check it off and “tie the bow.”
If you “tie the bow” more often, you'll earn a double-bonus. Not only will you get more accomplished, but you'll have a much less cluttered environment at home and at work. If you think about it, clutter is created through incomplete tasks – the jacket not hung up, the half-read mail left lying on the table, the glass or bowl not put in the dishwasher, the boxes never unpacked, and the countless items that clutter your environment because they have never been given a home. At work, incomplete tasks lead to the clutter of papers, reading material, and sticky notes.
The Skoach Approach
In Skoach, the last step of each task is to check it off as done. If you haven't completed your task when it’s time to move on to the next one, your last step should be to create a new task, and schedule a time to complete it.
The new task should have a different label that will indicate the remaining steps. For example, if you weren't able to complete your initial task called “Write Avery report,” your new task might be called something like, “Write conclusion and recommendations for Avery report.” Estimate how long this will take you, and schedule it in on your Skoach page. When you treat the remainder of an incomplete task as a new task, it’s no longer a hanging thread that clutters your day. It’s a new, scheduled task that is clearly defined. Then you can get on with your day and stay focused.