How do you learn to finish all the projects you’ve started, respond to all the emails you’ve received, and ensure all loose ends in your life are attended to?
You could use tools (e.g., Evernote, “GTD” apps, calendars, old-fashioned note cards or Post-It™ notes, etc.). You could use programs to automate, organize, and sift through the distracting noise (e.g., IFTTT, shell/npm scripts, TaskRabbit, etc.). You could use techniques to restrain yourself from distractions (e.g., Pomodoro, RescueTime, etc.).
But how do you know you’re focussing on the right things, the important things? You could change your perspective, both in the moment and in the long term.
On a whim, I bought this book called Do Improvise. I hoped it would solve my problems of having all these grandiose ideas… with even plans… with even steps… but no action. There’s action, but there’s no closure. Skimming this book, I stumbled upon a page about the tendency many (most?) folks experience of “creative thinking” instead of “creative doing.”
Why do we keep coming up with ideas but never want to be the ones to build them? Because for most of us, we get stuck in the result-driven mindset or the process-driven mindset, but rarely both. There are times in our lives when we may find ourselves enamoured with the process but not enough to close that chapter, that thread, that project – and just get it done.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we can find ourselves becoming too focussed on fixing the details. This seems to be a sort of procrastination that makes us feel productive but leaves us still with things unfinished.
Yesterday, I borrowed a coworker’s copy of experimental musician Brian Eno‘s Oblique Strategies. The idea is simple: when you’re stressed or overthinking about all the things you have to do or could be doing, you open the deck, pull out a card, don’t put it away, and let the words on the card sit with you for a second. It’s like wisdom from a fortune cookie. See if it applies to your current thinking in the moment. Reflect. And shift your perspective.
There’s always a start. A start in shifting your perspective can be the one new thought that can bring you to finishing (or changing) the thoughts that are plaguing you from finishing.
Start now. And let yourself finish.
Change your environment. Change your equipment. Change your perspective.