If you’re like me, and anyone else in this world for that matter, you’re getting pulled in 80 different ways in any given moment. What makes it harder is that technology has wired us to be easily distractible and pursue the next shiny object even when there are more important things to do. Occasionally this means we leave tasks unfinished when we move on to the next. This seriously affects your productivity in two way and on two different scales.
First, let’s talk about the immediate, or short-term. Eventually you’ll need to return to whatever you didn’t finish to close the task, and what’s often underestimated is the amount of time and energy it takes to refocus and get it done. Even when multiple things need to get done, overall it’s more productive to work on tasks to their completion for that very reason. According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task.”
Then there’s the long term implication which really boils down to your identity. Who is the person you want to be? Do you want to follow through on commitments, and do what you say you’re going to do? If so then finishing things the first time will help you affirm that identity. When this lives at the level of your identity no longer do you need to put effort into following through, it just simply the type of person you are.
So as enticing as it might be to jump straight into something that’s new and novel, try to complete what you’re currently working on. It will hijack your attention, be unfair to your time, and suck your energy. And now at the very least you know some of the consequences of what happens when you don’t finish things.
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