Have you ever notice the temptation to be working on multiple projects at once? It’s certainly my tendency to have too many projects moving at once. That’s when I remember this discipline and begin to take steps to discipline my action.
I find many of my clients are often overwhelmed, with too much on their to-do lists, as they say. Each day is a carry-over from the day before, with important tasks incomplete. This is frustrating and rarely rewarding.
In life, there are no great memories of those who ambitiously start project after project. Life rewards the finishers…not the starters. It’s just the way.
We are also wired to esteem ourselves for completion. It’s great to start a new project, but an incomplete project after the project leaves us internally criticizing ourselves and robs us of confidence.
And no employers are looking for great starters. They seek the finishers.
Do you want to be a great starter? Or a great finisher?
The Role of the Ego
Let’s talk psychology for just a moment. The ego is a much-debated concept. And here, I do not intend to address the debates in any manner. However, let’s assume one’s ego thrives on having a problem to solve. In fact, by constantly having problems to solve, the ego takes on a larger and larger role in directing our lives.
The more problems, the more the ego thrives. On the other hand, the more contentment, the less the role of the ego. Thus, maturity and personal development allow for the raging internal ego to be calmer and less demanding.
I mention all this because the stressed, upset, anxious, depressed ego will have a laundry list of things to do, that are incessantly changing and re-created each day. We don’t even have to be that stressed or anxious, and still, we can create lists upon lists that involve spinning in circles. Rarely is there productive completion of any single significant task. The feeling of failing, over and over, fuels the sense of enormous internal inadequacy.
What’s the ego’s answer? More on my mental to-do list! More should do floating in my head. The mind/ego builds in apparent blindness to what happened yesterday, as we repeat this frustrating process over and over. That’s the only way our smart brains could continue this craziness!
The Answer: Discretion in Making Choice
Once you take a serious look at life, and perhaps you see this tendency in yourself, it’s time for working a new mental muscle: discretion. While the intense desire to get everything done on the list will tempt you to try to do it all today again, resist that.
Instead, use discretion to greatly narrow down the list. Write it down. Write down a plan for your day, that is not overwhelming. Remember: rarely does anything HAVE to be done, in reality.
Use a friend or spouse, if necessary, to help you. They can help in two ways. First, they often know the many tiny tasks, that you haven’t put into your written plan for the day. Those eat up time and suck you away from what is important. Put them on the list, if they must be done. Get rid of the rest.
And, secondly, they can help you become more realistic in your choices and encourage you to focus on only one project. You ask them to be critical and explain that completion is more important than anything else. This will serve you in many ways if you are willing to get this feedback and input.
I have worked with several clients, overwhelmed by their messy homes. They wander from room to room, picking up a bit here and there. Then, they beat themselves up every day, as little progress is made.
The solution is obvious. Right? Just pick a room. Or perhaps start with a closet. Get that done, and done well. Then, the next day, another closet. In a couple of weeks, the home is in good shape.
Individuals who are depressed often have overwhelming lists of should do’s in their heads. This list is ever circulating and torturing them. If you were to hear this list aloud, anyone would be immobilized, and feelings of depression would emerge. One key is again discretion. Choose for the day and go for it. Focused on one project only. It will help!
Start Less. Finish More.
The bottom line is this. Regardless of where you find yourself, the multi-tasking approach to project completion is a proven lie. We function better and complete more when we start less. So, consider testing this, and just notice how it works. For me, it’s a life changer!