One of the most repeated bits of advice I’ve heard in any occupation I’ve held is to FINISH what you set out to do. In fact, I hear it so much that it sounds as if the world is littered with people who could make it their entire life without completing tasks the universe dishes out.
I definitely hear a lot about it in my writing world. Apparently, there are loads of people out there who have a hard time making it to the words, “The End.”
This is not an affliction from which I suffer. As a mater of fact, the need to FINISH what’s on my plate is an all-encompassing aspect of my life–a razor sharp line that sounds pretty good on the surface, but can cut your ass in a heartbeat if you don’t watch it.
On the plus side, my deeply rooted need to complete the tasks I’ve set for myself (or that have been set for me) allow me to add all kinds of fun words to my resume/self-description:
Powerful words, aren’t they? Just the type of thing you want prospective employers to read. Yet ask any of my friends and family and they’ll probably add this picture alongside them…
Not very soft and cuddly, huh?
If you think that’s bad, you should see the internal self-mutilation going on while I’m trying to get any pending deliverable finished. It’s ugly, I tell you. UGLY. A Freddie Kruger altercation of the highest magnitude without visible marks.
Aside from the internal angst, there’s one other really rotten side to being too conclusion oriented; missing the good stuff.
Some of the good stuff is quick and easy to identify.
- Missing time with my girls
- Making time for the hubby
- Making time for <gasp> me?
But there’s a more subtle benefit that’s missed. Namely, DETAILS. There’s no telling how much better my work would be if I weren’t always flying Mach Fifty with my body lit up like a super nova.
This is where I am right now on a number of projects. I find myself realizing I need to go back and fix things I should have taken more slowly, or that I started too quickly giving me an unbearable number of items on my agenda.
So, while others seem to be focused on spurring themselves toward the finish line, I’m learning the gift of yanking my own choke chain–intentionally setting aside projects long enough to expose them to some mental sunlight to see what crops up. If what grows ends up being weeds, that’s ok. I can yank them. But a healthy “pause approach” is a damn sight better than mowing down a seedling before it ever has a chance to bloom. Right?
Now if I can just teach myself how to do it. It’s on my to-do list now, so I’ll get there. Maybe. By the time I’m dead.
Which side of the coin are you on? Do you procrastinate? Find ways to avoid crossing the finish line? Or do you tractor-beam in on the final destination and do the warp-speed thing like me?
CJ BurrightJune 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm
Oh, yes – I’m a list girl. Make the list, get it done, no matter the cost. And if that list isn’t done at my self-proclaimed deadline, someone’s going to get hurt. You’re so right – I find myself missing out on the fun stuff because I can’t relax unless the stuff I think NEEDS to get done is finished. I’ve realized that (sometimes) if those need-to-be-done things are set aside, the world doesn’t blow up after all.
RhennaJune 3, 2013 at 6:55 pm
I schedule a week of sloth every year. The days between Christmas and New Years. Those days are SACRED and whoa to the fool who interrupts them.
Suzanne VinceJune 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm
I think I’m a little bit of both, but it’s taken me 50 years to get there. I can finish things, but I try to take time out to enjoy the journey, and it doesn’t bother me if I miss an self-imposed deadline (as long as the one’s that pay the bills get done on time). It is a process though, and you’re on the right road! Congrats for recognizing the OCD in you 🙂
MarilynJune 3, 2013 at 6:49 pm
I was so freaked out by my first contract — ie, first real deadline — that I wrote 10-12 hours a day for 21 days until the book was finished. I kept that up for the first 15 years of my career, but in my other life, I left — still leave — things sitting undone forever. (Honestly, I bought everything I need to replace a piece of Sheetrock in our hall nearly three years ago, and it’s all still neatly stacked in the garage. And I’ve never had the entire house totally clean at one time in my life.)
I’ve slowed way down in the last 10+ years. I want to finish as many writing projects as I can, but I also want time to play with the grandkid and nephews, to do a little traveling, to spend time with friends. Life, unfortunately, doesn’t wait for us to take a break. We have to make that time ourselves.
RhennaJune 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm
And you never get that time back. That’s the part that keeps me from falling over the edge. I don’t want regrets. Ever.
kimJune 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm
I used to be very task focused at work – had a reputation as the Programme Manager that just got the impossible jobs done. But like Marilyn I only applied that focus to work!
Now I am on a sabbatical from corporate life and I am applying the slow approach to writing. Not necessarily by choice lols – but I am learning so much I have to give myself time to absorb, reflect and apply 🙂
gretchen wingJune 4, 2013 at 8:06 am
LISTS! Love ’em. Love checking stuff off. Obsessive enough that way that I’ll write something down AFTER I’ve done it, just for the satisfaction of making that check mark! And always on Post-it notes. (Should’ve bought stock in the 3M company.) But I think some of us are this way almost more as a response to our natural tendency toward distraction & entropy.
By the way, Rhenna, if no one’s told you recently how funny you are, then allow me to remind you.
RhennaJune 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm
Ah, thanks Gretchen. Funny, though…my family doesn’t use the word funny. They lean more towards crazy. 🙂
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