57 Things Started and Nothing Done

Are you a multitasker?  It is OK, you can admit it.

Are you one of those people that is constantly working on 57 different things?

Multi-tasking: It just doesn’t work.  Trust me.

The truth is… it is all about priorities.  Of those 57 things you are working on, I’ll bet 3 are important.

At the end of the day, will you be better off with 57 things started or with those 3 most important items done?

Why It’s Better Done Than Started

Have you seen one of those people who flits from task to task?  Maybe a co-worker or friend.  A true busy bee.  They are always very, very busy.  Yet, they don’t seem to accomplish much.

In fact, while they are a flurry of action, they are floundering to stay ahead.  Busy will only carry you so far.  Eventually, reality catches up.  Don’t get me wrong, there are workplaces which mistakenly reward busy instead of results.  If you are in one, get out…because they don’t tend to stay around very long.

Really, it’s all about completion.  It doesn’t matter how many things you start.  It is about how many you finish. Starting your taxes is good.  Finishing them is what counts.  Starting to write a business proposal is good intent.  But, it does not deliver results.

In fact, starting but not finishing, can actually create more work later.  The simple task that you begin and then pause will take more time when you return to it.  You will have to spend extra time figuring out where you left off.

How to Get Done

If you are a frequent multitasker, you are probably familiar with todos and projects undone.  Here are a six tips to aid you in “Getting Done.”

  1. Use a Today List – Have a list of the things that you must get done today.  I call this a “Today List.”  It is usually best to keep it separate from your todo list.  Starting out, I recommend you limit yourself to only 3 items on your Today List.  If you get nothing else done today, you will finish what is on your Today List.  These are the tasks that will be shown no mercy.
  2. Resist Starting Other Tasks – No matter how simple or short the task, make extra effort not to start other todos before finishing what you are working on.  Catch yourself putting something down in midstream and finish it before starting something else.
  3. Have a clean workspace –  The power of a clean workspace if often underestimated.  Multitaskers are infamous for cluttered workspaces.  But, they will tell you that it is an organized mess. Of course, they know where everything is.  A clean workspace is essential to getting things to done.  Take the 5 minutes to clean up your area before starting important work.
  4. Avoid Interruptions – It has been show that after even the simplest of interruptions, it can require 15 minutes or more to get back on track.  When you are working on your high priority items, minimize your chance of interruptions.  Close your door if necessary.  Do not answer calls.  Go find a quiet place to work.  Go to your “Fortress of Solitude” if you must, if it means getting things done without interruption.
  5. Eliminate Distractions – The web and email are probably the best examples.  How many times have you been in the middle of a task and then suddenly decided to look something up on the web.  23 websites later, you realize you should get back to your work.  Close your email client.  Shut off your internet connection if you need to.  Reduce these temptations by eliminating them, if even for a short time.
  6. Build Momentum – Finishing tasks gives you more energy.  The positive feeling from completing something will drive your productivity even higher.  That is why it is so powerful to complete tasks first thing in the morning.  It accelerates you all day long.

Done Wins

Are you the busy bee that does not finish anything?  Instead of working on many things, try limiting yourself to your top three tasks.  You may be surprised how much more effective you become.  And you will probably get more done in the process.

Remember: Intent doesn’t win.  Finishing wins.

Sometimes 3 beats 57.  Actually, it almost always does.

Invest just 10 minutes a day toward the right ideas, behaviors and strategies to finally be more productive at work…so you can spend less time there! 31 Days, 31 Ways: Daily Tips for Time Management Mastery is my time management course, containing 31 powerful daily lessons and 31 actionable exercises designed to help you take action, reduce stress, and reclaim your time. Click here to learn more.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post – and it’s true: multitasking is a myth. You can only rapidly change your focus. Over time, that’s exhausting.

  • Great post – and it’s true: multitasking is a myth. You can only rapidly change your focus. Over time, that’s exhausting.

  • Thank you thank you thank you, for writing this. I am not alone! I recently declared myself a mono-tasker publicly and the reaction is stunning: I am either lazy (“Must be nice”) or not very busy (“I don’t have that luxury”.) We really hold tight to this silly paradigm.
    The only practical details to add to your most excellent post is the science behind multitasking: our brains are simply not wired for it. And yes, that applies to everyone, even Generation C (or H or D or whatever.) As Randy points out, our brains are wired for focus and fast-switching.
    Here’s the link to my own post, provided only to give you the links to those wonderful studies. However, for some people even science isn’t enough to stop this unproductive behaviour.
    Thanks again for the great post!
    http://bit.ly/aRxqHF

  • Thank you thank you thank you, for writing this. I am not alone! I recently declared myself a mono-tasker publicly and the reaction is stunning: I am either lazy (“Must be nice”) or not very busy (“I don’t have that luxury”.) We really hold tight to this silly paradigm.
    The only practical details to add to your most excellent post is the science behind multitasking: our brains are simply not wired for it. And yes, that applies to everyone, even Generation C (or H or D or whatever.) As Randy points out, our brains are wired for focus and fast-switching.
    Here’s the link to my own post, provided only to give you the links to those wonderful studies. However, for some people even science isn’t enough to stop this unproductive behaviour.
    Thanks again for the great post!
    http://bit.ly/aRxqHF

  • Excellent points. I use a today list and it makes it so much easier to focus. I find that keeping it separate from my main project and action lists is the key to making it work– that reduced distraction and prevents me from constantly being tempted to change my mind about what to work on.

  • Excellent points. I use a today list and it makes it so much easier to focus. I find that keeping it separate from my main project and action lists is the key to making it work– that reduced distraction and prevents me from constantly being tempted to change my mind about what to work on.

  • Great post Craig!

    Like Elisabeth, I too have declared myself a unitasker a while back.

    Unfinished work adds unnecessary stress. I try to focus on a couple of things a day. Usually have a weekly target list and I just pick from that on a daily basis.

  • Great post Craig!

    Like Elisabeth, I too have declared myself a unitasker a while back.

    Unfinished work adds unnecessary stress. I try to focus on a couple of things a day. Usually have a weekly target list and I just pick from that on a daily basis.

  • Thank you for these fabulous tips. I’m selecting 3 things to get DONE today.

  • Thank you for these fabulous tips. I’m selecting 3 things to get DONE today.

  • Ken

    Avoid Interruptions/Eliminate Distractions: Absolutely the two best things you can do, and they are related. Turn off Instant Messaging, Email, and Browser when you’re at your computer. When working on something manually (writing, drawing, creating, brainstorming), turn off your computer. You’d be surprised how much ADD is really external forces. If you’re have an office, shut the door and phone.

    Sometimes distractions cannot be helped – but you have to learn to tune things out to focus. Multi-tasking is useful only in certain instances, but not good for any meaningful work.

  • Ken

    Avoid Interruptions/Eliminate Distractions: Absolutely the two best things you can do, and they are related. Turn off Instant Messaging, Email, and Browser when you’re at your computer. When working on something manually (writing, drawing, creating, brainstorming), turn off your computer. You’d be surprised how much ADD is really external forces. If you’re have an office, shut the door and phone.

    Sometimes distractions cannot be helped – but you have to learn to tune things out to focus. Multi-tasking is useful only in certain instances, but not good for any meaningful work.

  • Hardy

    …you can’t change people – you can only provide people with the tools to change themselves.

    keep up the great work!!

    “Gambatte kudasai”

    😉

  • Hardy

    …you can’t change people – you can only provide people with the tools to change themselves.

    keep up the great work!!

    “Gambatte kudasai”

    😉

  • plandocheckact

    Craig,

    Thanks.

    The photo on the article attracted my attention because I have two letter blocks on my desk: “DO”. I coined the phrase, “Do is half of done.” To your point, we must keep doing until it is finished.

    Dr. Robert Anthony says, “There are only two things in life, reasons and results. Reasons don’t count.”

    I also believe multi-tasking is a waste of time. The brain can only do one thing at a time well. “Beware of shiny objects.”

    In a recent blog post, I only had 4 time management rules. http://www.peterdisantis.com/index.php/blog/94-four-time-management-rules

    Thanks,

  • plandocheckact

    Craig,

    Thanks.

    The photo on the article attracted my attention because I have two letter blocks on my desk: “DO”. I coined the phrase, “Do is half of done.” To your point, we must keep doing until it is finished.

    Dr. Robert Anthony says, “There are only two things in life, reasons and results. Reasons don’t count.”

    I also believe multi-tasking is a waste of time. The brain can only do one thing at a time well. “Beware of shiny objects.”

    In a recent blog post, I only had 4 time management rules. http://www.peterdisantis.com/index.php/blog/94-four-time-management-rules

    Thanks,

  • Pingback: threads collected | Learning & growing()

  • Pingback: finish what you start | The Clutter Book: When You Can't Let Go()

  • Pingback: Key to Productivity: Completion | | Freakishly ProductiveFreakishly Productive()

  • The “Today List” is a great idea that I think will help me on the way to being less-multi-tasking. Thanks.

    • I use a today list as a subset of my todo list every day. 🙂

  • Pingback: 57 Things Started and Nothing Done | molto più che segretaria()

  • Pingback: You're Probably Breaking Most Of These 10 Time Management Rules | Bay Business Help()

  • Pingback: Done is better than perfect: 7 hints for getting things done with Index Card Cure™ | Index Card Cure™()

  • Pingback: Pick One Thing and Do It Until Done | Jupiter Time Logger()

  • Pingback: Four time stealers and how to keep them at bay - Free for all - Blog - Free for all - BMA - Connecting doctors()

  • Pingback: finish what you start | The Clutter Book: When You Can't Let Go()

  • Pingback: 10 Tips to Help You Stay on One Task Until It’s Done - My Branding Team()

  • Pingback: 10 Tips to Help You Stay on One Task Until It’s Done - California Local News()