How to Finish

Finish your thought or let it die.

Letting dreams die is especially hard. Not because the ensuing pain is so great, but because the dream itself, is happy to limp along forever. When a person dies, they participate, they ensure their last moment with you is their end of the story, for better or worse. Dreams and half baked thoughts have a way of never dying because both parties are unwilling to let them go. Therefore it is all on you..

You have to step up and recognize that a life of hoarding thoughts in a sock drawer is silly, really really silly. Just let that dream die, or fight like hell to make it real.

Getting Things Done and urgency

GTD allowed me to never forget the urgent, but the unintended side effect is that I developed a huge mass of unfinished thoughts that were interesting, but not important or urgent enough to finish. They get stored in the GTD system, but any material that sits in one place for too long becomes toxic.

GTD is not helpful to those that create more “valuable” thoughts in a day than they have time to deal with. I, personally, think in links and networks, most all of the time. This creates the pattern of starting a bunch of little things and as soon as a related and good thing pops into my head, I chase that for a while. Instead of changing how I think, I am learning to adapt with it. Allow me to demonstrate with a stick drawing…

Qualities of finishing

Because few things ever truly end, it is important to define what “done” looks like for a particular thought or project. I generally define finishing as getting a thought firmly seated in its new home.

Here are a few other ways of defining done:

  • Finishing Proper – we all know this feeling, but it isn’t the only way.
  • Long projects – Ernest Hemingway finds a place where he still had something in the tank, so he had somewhere he knew he could start off with next time. “You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”
  • Time binding – Pomodoro is a technique of giving tasks 25 minutes then taking a 5 minute break before starting another 25 minutes. Regardless of how done you feel, at the buzzer, you are done. This is an acquired taste, but has some compelling effects for the procrastinator.
  • GTD – it is placed in the proper spot to be dealt with at a more appropriate time.
  • Polarity – Maybe it is a Polarity and can’t be finished. Maybe it is better formed as a question or a process to be stored somewhere.
  • Good Enough – I know this list has more linking and thinking to do so I set those as tasks in my Writing GTD list and call this, “good enough for now”, and hit Publish.

The work I do on this blog is a practice in finishing something and making it real. It helps in selecting what is worth bringing to full life. I started this post with the goal of learning to do my whole Starting process for writing, ONLY using my new iPad. I wanted to know if I could do this process without pen and paper, or a computer, and if it would be faster or at least a similar speed. Spoiler Alert; it’s not faster yet, but it is all in one place with me wherever I go, and that is priceless, considering long term travel plans. More on that iPad workflow later…


If I could overcome overwhelm and finish complex new tasks at the drop of a hat, I would be a millionaire with perfect abs. Life is messy and these new pathways and technologies open endless possibilities. Of course, we know when the sun goes down on our hero, it will come back up, and there will be another battle, but it’s really nice to call today’s work “done”.

If you are looking for more help on what it means to bring the day to a close, these 3 resources have been super helpful to me.

Deep work

Ship It Journal episode

Finish episode – the book is just a very long version of the podcast.

Best of luck in getting to Done!

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