One of the main productivity tips I have been given is this: eliminate half-actions in your daily habits. Focus on getting the job done to a level, where the value of the job is achieved.
“It’s only the last turn of a bolt that tightens it - the rest is just movement.” - Shigeo Shingo
What is a half action? Well... you see them all the time. It's everytime someone has started on something and then haven't brougt it to the level where something was actually accomplished. Here is some examples:
- Garbage taken halfway out. Now it sits in front of the door in smelly pile of bags. Moving the bags the final 4 meters would haven taken just a little more. Now the task remains. Nothing has been accomplished.
- Starting on a job you haven't got the time to finish. If you start on a knowledge task, and only gets half-way through. Instead break knowledge work into manageable chunks. Do the brainstorm/outline whatever. Don't write half a paragraph, then leave it, and ditch it and start all over in the morning.
When you start to consider these half-actions, you'll be surprised how many of them you do out of sheer habit.
I tend to empty the dinnertable, and then put all the dinnerware and the plates in a big pile on the kitchen-table. Why didn't I put them straight into the dishwasher?
I also have a bad habit of leaving my newly washed clothes in a pile on a small chair next to my wardrope, and THEN, some time later, put it into the wardrobe. How weird is that?
In your daily life such half-action habits are just annoying, perhaps especially for the people living with you. But in the workplace they're a real hazard for completing anything. It's where I have gained the most value from this shift of habits.
You need to cut through the tendency in busy organizations to get a lot of projects moved very little, instead of focusing. This is mainly done out of a misplaced will to show stakeholders that you put in some effort. Don't put in the effort. Deliver the goods instead.
Sometimes you will feel the urge to "get started" on something, where you haven't actually got the time or ressources to finish the task. I say take a break instead, or find something you can actually complete.
When I succeed with this kind of willful focus on finishing tasks and reaching goals, instead of just satisficing and shuffling papers around, I accomplish much more
Half-completed knowledgework doesn't mature with age, like fine wine. It gets stale and crumbles like bread. Stop a couple of times every day, and ask yourself: "Am I about to complete this?"
- Jens Poder