Habits & Procrastination, Productivity for Writers

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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