Finishing Stuff

I am always talking about how easy professional or personal success is if you master the basics. It’s those foundational skills that make all of the difference. However, sometimes success is just a matter of understanding a few fundamental truths. One of those truths is:

Starting stuff is really, really easy.

Finishing stuff is really, really hard.

So the universal question at hand is why is it so hard to finish the things we start? One reason is that the average attention span of people today is less than 7 seconds. I probably should repeat that because you probably weren’t paying attention.

Your attention span is less than 7 seconds.

When we start a task and lose focus, nothing progresses, and it becomes an anchor. Then, we create another task and another, and another, then losing focus, there becomes a graveyard of unfinished tasks and projects. Then these unfinished tasks begin to stack up. The bigger the stack, the more pressure you feel. With every task, you take on, someone that you’re accountable to fully expects that task to be completed. When you have multiple stakeholders expecting results that you aren’t delivering, you have multiple pressure points that will weigh you down. The more you take on, the more you don’t get done, the more pressure you assume, and the more your life spins out of control.

I recently spoke to an executive recruiter. I asked him what was the most important trait that he looked for in a qualified candidate. His answer should be surprising to some. He said that the prime characteristic that he looked for in a great executive candidate was their ability to complete a single task. Think about that for a moment. What he’s saying is that a candidate who touts multi-tasking is a virtue the recruiter sees as a detriment. Factor in the seven-second attention span, and you have a candidate that is always busy but is never productive. The ability to focus on a single task and complete that task before moving to a new one is now a highly valued skill. And, it is a skill that you need to learn as soon as you can.

You start by learning to prioritize what you think you need to do. Then, ask yourself if there is a consequence to doing or not doing the task. If the consequence is high, you do it. If the consequence is low, put it in your “to do later” list.   Saying yes to everything is an attitude of the past. A philosopher once said that you never have time to do everything, but you always have time to do the most important thing. The moral of the story is that if you start something, be sure that it’s worth your time to finish it, or don’t start it and cause you and others a succession of pain.

Remember, today, your personal and professional success is based on one idea: YOU WILL BE JUDGED BY THE TASKS YOU COMPLETE, NOT START!

Billionaire Warren Buffett said, “I can buy anything I want, but I can’t buy time. So, be careful with it!”

Do you understand what Mr. Buffett said? Warren Buffett, not Jimmy Buffett. Hello. Are you there? I know you’re there. I can hear you breathing. All I ask is for you to focus, listen, and pay attention for an additional seven seconds, and your life could change.

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