I have been building my business up for several years now. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and three steps back. I have had to make certain sacrifices because to take the business forward I have to work on it and that takes time. Sometimes I have felt overwhelmed because there was so much to do and however hard I worked I just couldn't do it all. I was fed-up to the back teeth with not-finishing all the things I wanted to do. I felt like a slightly crazed (and certainly exhausted) butterfly flitting from one interesting project to another. Eventually I came to realise that I would do much better if I dealt with things one at a time. I had to learn to say “No” (or at least “Not yet”) to new opportunities while I was still fully engaged with current projects. It was hard, but it pays.
This particular penny dropped in September 2012. I know it’s ages ago, but at that time we had a huge amount going on. We were planning an office move and were knee deep in getting the finances and legal stuff sorted out, never mind chivvying the builders and BT, planning the office layout and the thousand and one other things buying an office takes.
We had also started work on a new website which took a phenomenal amount of work, even though I had plenty of professional help. If you take into account that I had all the usual pressures of delivering work, running the office plus trying to work on sales and marketing I felt as though I was drowning. Client work comes first so that was all done, but that apart a good many things were parked until I had time to come back to them and I have been slowly working my way through as and when I can allocate the time.
Over Christmas I have spent a few hours finishing off some writing work that has been outstanding for at least eight months. I had committed to it in 2012, started it in about April last year and have only just finished it. While it’s a wonderful feeling to have it done and out of the way I never want to have this sort of project time-lag again.
It’s made me think about the importance of completing work in an orderly fashion before moving on. Being able to start things is important (lots of people never even do that); but actually completing things is an entirely different skill. Learning to finish what you started is important for both professional and personal success. Even if the end result is not exactly what you planned, being able to compete something helps you build skills, strength and a sense of purpose.
Here are my tips for starting and finishing work before moving on to the next thing.
- Prioritise tasks. Learn to say no (or at least not yet).
- Make notes and to-do lists. Create milestones.
- Accept that there will be interruptions and hiccoughs factor them into your time plan.
- Plan your time and resources and get organised.
- Focus fully on the tasks in short bursts.
- Pick your fights. Only do what is relevant and necessary.
- Automate whatever you can and ask for help when you need it.
- Keep going and reward yourself when you reach milestones.
I am still rationalising the way I work, but I am making progress. Wish me luck!
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