Before I discovered the art of finishing, I realised I didn’t value weekends. I wasn’t taking holidays. I mean real holidays where the laptop gathers dust and life gets your proper attention.
Being someone who loves creating in the digital space, I found my laptop was like a cigarette. I didn’t want it anymore and the fun had gone away.
But there I was, day after day, chasing some high. Chasing some email or social media entertainment. Counting down the days in mouse clicks.
In short, I was talking the talk and not walking the walk further than a couple of metres. So I went on holidays for 3 weeks. And something magical happened. I came back liking things. I came back actually feeling excited by creation and delving into work.
I discovered the art of finishing. Here’s why it has such a profound impact.
Time off is a line in the sand
Do you know why our forefathers campaigned for 40 hour working weeks? Because we operate better when we’re well rested.
Those weekends, nights and holidays are important.
When we have something to look forward to. Even if it’s time to zone out, we’re smarter, healthier and better at creative thinking.
But more than that, it’s also the opportunity to create a demarcation point between work and the rest of your life. Between you and the tasks you need to do in service of others for cash there is a cut off point.
And it makes us able to think about our health, happiness and family.
It gives us the ability to catch up with people we care about. Experimenting with creative ideas occurs. Things you’ve neglected like putting plants in the garden and a January clean up become possible.
You get time to do the housework, yardwork and homework. And to be bored.
Do you remember what it was like to be bored?!
The art of finishing means work doesn’t dominate every corner of our lives. That in turn means that the rest of our lives also gets a look in.
Workaholics aren’t known for having great health, relationships or being the life of the party. While that may be a throwaway line, it has a darker side to it.
Isolation and loneliness kills us, as does stress. So creating that line in the sand is incredibly important.
It stops your identity melting away (or getting aggravated)
If you stare long and hard enough at something, it begins to lose shape. We lose the definition and the ability to see it for what it is. This is another reason why finishing is so important.
You and that business. You and that social media personality you cultivate online. You and that thing you are immersing yourself in; they are not you.
They are you plus something else. Removing that plus one on occasion keeps you connected to the real you.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is becoming a real problem. You can see it on the edges of a lot of internet usage, especially social media usage.
If you begin to recognise the same names having a rant on the same social media pages, or if that is you, check yourself. Does the world need yet another acerbic one liner from you on why the world sucks?
Does it prove anything that you have good reason to be cynical? Is it changing anything?
There’s a line in Doctor Who that I love-
“You’re not going to make the world any better by shouting at it.”
We spend so much time angered by what we see on social media and sharing our opinions. Yet we often fail to take action beyond it.
When we spend our days and ways on social media spitting out the drudgery and the dangers, we confuse this for action. We are too close to see that we are in fact achieving nothing.
It’s not a real conversation. We don’t have to care about how someone else responds. So it is of little purpose, save fortifying our own thoughts. And finding more reason to dismiss the thoughts of others.
Cultivating cognitive dissonance doesn’t do any of us any favours. Being blind to those links and linkages serves no one. Social media is the prime example we can all relate to of standing too close to the mirror.
But even with this every day example screaming at us daily, we fail to see this in our working lives.
The personalities who chase the praise and brown nose are no different to those who seek the next re-tweet.
Oh Captain Professional with your midnight oil burning so bright,
did you notice your family leaving as you chased their future good life?
Stare into the work abyss all day, every day without a break, it won’t just stare back at you. It’ll pluck out your eyes, spin you around and throw you into free-fall. And it’s only until you step away from the intoxication that you realise how big the monster you have created has become.
You need the art of finishing to stop taking that talk to your bed, your family gathering and your romantic dinner.
Take that weekend, night off, long weekend or long bath. Before it swallows you whole.
The art of finishing gives you perspective
Screw the productivity apps with their built in timers or the methods that let you know when to stop. Put on your big person pants and make some decisions about your life that will benefit it you.
Train yourself good habits instead of transferring the reliance elsewhere.
When I came back from holidays, I coached myself to be overwhelmed. I thought all the emails from new people. My head swum with the projects I have committed to.
Action was replaced with fear. Bowel twisting dread.
I remembered what Amanda Palmer said about the art of asking and how it’s our own perception that stops us from doing it.
It was far too great a temptation not to see if the art of finishing ended my own self built productivity prison.
I gave myself half a day before I started to dig through what needed to be done and build a framework. I found that because I had finished last year without straggling pieces, I looked forward to starting this year. And that I could design days not based on how many million things I had to do and how many people I had to answer to.
I could work on it based on how many hours in the day and what was critical. I even created a place to park stuff that was already bugging me that didn’t really need attention until weeks away. I stepped back. I designed my work day around when I would take lunch, a walk and a dip in the water. Instantly, it stopped being a horrendous prospect.
Everything stopped knocking on the back of my head and gut. It became achievable. More than that, it was far more reasonable.
I realised I was far more efficient. The quality of work produced was higher than it was before I left for holidays.
The resolve was stronger and the creativity was flowing.
So while I had a lot of work to deal with when I came back, I also had a lot more petrol in the tank. Plus, I had stopped seeing everything in micro-detail and could make better decisions as a result.
Therefore my time management is better. And the app with its helpful bleat was not needed.
Work begins to have meaning again
No matter how much you love cheese, if it was all you had to eat every meal for the rest of your life, you’d get sick of it.
Why then do we con ourselves into thinking that jobs we like have to happen 247? How on earth is something meant to stay something we adore and cherish if it’s so dreadfully over exposed?
Working on the same thing all day every day without a break is like eating too much cheese. Or a romantic partner who lacks the esteem to operate without you in their orbit, day in and day out.
It gets old. And draining. Why then do we expect to be superhuman when it comes to work?
Even people fighting against poverty and disease or trying to advocate for change in the justice system need holidays. The trauma and the pain get to people- it changes people.
They lose their empathy and identity.
Before you end up with compassion fatigue or so cynical you deliberately sabotage your motivation, stop. You can only do so much before you become a millstone around the necks of others. Fit your own mask before the plane crashes and you’ll operate better.
You’ll be able to see hope.
If you engage in the art of finishing, you leave behind what you have been labouring over for so long. And you begin to appreciate it again.
The whole working 247 with no holiday shenanigan garners applause in startup, freelance and small business land. But it’s no better than white collar presenteeism in big organisations and offices.
If you feel that overwhelming sense of a river of work that never ceases to end, you owe it to the work you are doing to take a break.
Why the art of finishing is so important
In Turner and Hooch, Tom Hanks’ character has sex. It gives him the breakthrough he needs to crack the case. By taking his mind off the case, he can stop being so close to it that he is blind.
Plus, he gets laid. Win, win.
You owe it to your brain to give it a rest.
It isn’t your brain that wants you to keep working on something until your abilities shrivel under fluorescent lights.
It’s your ego.
It’s your ego that tells you that you are indispensable and that the world will fall apart if you don’t crack the code. It’s your ego that tells you if you take time off, someone will steal your position as the top person in your field.
Damn Skippy it’s your ego that tells you that the rest of the world not comparable to your brilliance and only you can save the day.
But we all finish sometime. We all die. You can’t work your way out of that one, champ! So you may as well become comfortable with the art of finishing now so when it’s no longer on your terms, the transition isn’t so tough.
Indulging a finish line on a regular basis helps us to keep creating. Because running at full tilt towards anything is no way to live.
Not if we truly think about it.