When finished isn’t done

The work is done, the post is published, the code has shipped, the boxes are all checked.

And yet, it remains in my head. The bit of code I’d like to revisit, an edge I couldn’t round off, a paragraph that doesn’t fit like I want it to, a workflow we didn’t improve upon, a conversation about trade-offs that went sideways…

The work is more than the work, more than an end. It’s emotions and memories. A new way of thinking, experience and wisdom newly integrated with what I’ve done before. The start of something new, with this finished work as the prologue that sets the stage for the next story.

Previous tasks continue to consume attention even after switching. This is especially true for anything that causes strong emotions. I find it hard to concentrate if I’m opening (Slack) every 15 minutes and every time seeing that thread where someone is arguing with me and they’re totally wrong and how can they even believe what they’re saying and what was I doing again? — Jamie Brandon, Moving Faster
  1. Acknowledging and managing emotions is a productivity/go-fast hack
  2. Really, don’t dwell on people being wrong. You can’t control it. Just keep going.
  3. Absent people and emotions, completing a task doesn’t mean it’s out of our heads. Account for that in planning the day or projects.

Often, things are only getting started when I check that box.

We call it perfectionism when we hold the work back to make one last tweak, another small improvement. Perfectionism is pouring myself into one checkbox for weeks or months at the expense of all the other things I want to do. It’s not so much seeking perfect, but an inability to let go and get started in earnest.

To the contrary, every day I’m more convinced that perfect emerges from checking that first box. Putting the work out there, starting the next checkbox (of several dozen), accumulating and shaping something more perfect.

Everything finished is the start of something else.

Adam Keys @therealadam