Goals & Habits, Time Management

Why You Should Deal With Loose Ends

There aren’t many of us without a few loose ends on our to-do lists. If you’re creative and enthusiastic, there’s even more chance that unfinished projects, tasks, or just bits-and-pieces are on the edge of your radar. This week, I became acutely aware of my own loose ends and I invite you to join me on a purge of these lingering items.

Loose Ends | Pauline Wiles

Why You Should Deal With Loose Ends

  1. They’re a distraction: they suck your energy away from more important projects. In particular, loose ends which offer a physical reminder (like a pile of papers, or broken light bulb) tend to dog you multiple times each day.
  2. Loose ends make you doubt your accomplishments and general ability get things done. They also encourage you to talk negatively to yourself.
  3. They often represent low value admin, not core work.
  4. More often than not, dealing with a loose end is surprisingly quick.

How to Sort Through Loose Ends

  1. Make a list of all the loose ends which are niggling at you. Often, these represent the final stages of a project, a non-important task you’ve been “meaning to do” for ages, or an item you need help with. A loose end should not be a “repeater” (a recurring task), but instead a “completer” : once it’s done, it’s done.
  2. Consider simply abandoning any loose ends which:
    1. Are there because your priorities have changed and this to-do simply isn’t important any more.
      My example: investigate submitting work to an anthology.
    2. Was never very important. Life has gone on perfectly fine without this loose end being done, so can you ditch it altogether?
      My example: check the statements from my bank account in the UK.
  3. Admit where you need help. Schedule it, barter for it, or beg for it.
    My example: I have a few household repairs that I know I’ll never tackle on my own.
  4. Decide which loose ends are actually projects you might get to someday, but not any time soon. These loose ends are typically much larger in nature, and can’t simply be taken care of in an hour or two. Make a “parking lot” list of these bright ideas and someday goals.
    My example: start a meetup group.
  5. For the loose ends which remain, get on and tackle them!

Approaches to Help You Tie Up Loose Ends

Some or all of these tactics can boost your momentum in tackling your remaining tasks:

  • Frame this as a blitz, a one-time effort which will clear your backlog and refresh your energy.
  • Consider designating one hour each day, for a week. Since loose ends rarely require your best creative effort, try evenings if you’re a morning person, and vice-versa.
  • Work with a friend for fun, encouragement or accountability. Consider posting on social media that you’ll have some before and after projects to share!
  • Use high energy music to help you power through.
  • Offer yourself a reward for completing a certain number of loose ends.

You can think of dealing with loose ends as a form of mental spring cleaning. I’d love to hear which loose ends you tackle, and how you get on.


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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    April J Harris
    March 29, 2019 at 11:43 am

    This post really resonates with me, Pauline! I have a lot of loose ends sitting on my desk right now and I’m about to go and clear them up thanks to you! It should only take about 20 minutes and I know it will re-energise my work flow. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      March 29, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      20 minutes? Oh, that will be such a worthwhile investment, April!

  2. Reply
    April J Harris
    April 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

    It really was, Pauline, and has wet my appetite for more. I can’t wait to get on top of things again! I’ve started the week already behind. Thank you so much for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I’m featuring this post at the party this week. Have a lovely week!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      April 1, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      I agree that “getting on top of things” feels great, although personally I need to be mindful that those things are really worth making a priority, and not low-value niggles I should ditch. Thanks so much for sharing this with your community, April.

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