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Your work will never be finished.

If your work is successful, it generates more work; as a result, the concept of “finishing your work” is a contradiction in terms so blatant and so dangerous that it can lead to nervous breakdowns—because it puts the pressure on the wrong places in your mind and habits.

Kenneth Atchity, as quoted in Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Jim Collins

I read this over the weekend, and I immediately had to stop and reread it.

Go ahead and try it for yourself. What does that quote say?

Your work can never be finished.

If you measure your progress by “finishing” a project or being “caught up,” you are in for a world of hurt.

It’s just not possible. You will never feel satisfied.

  • When you send an email, you get replies to that email.
  • When you assign a project to someone, they come back with questions.
  • If a project gets “completed,” you must monitor it to see if it has the intended impact.
  • When you hire a new team member, you need to on-board them, assign them projects, and monitor and manage them!

You get the idea. It’s not going to stop!

So what do we do?

Oh, great, Brad. Thanks for telling me it’s hopeless and I can never get caught up. You’re in the business of tossing anvils to drowning people now?

Slow down a minute and look at the second half of the quote, “…it puts the pressure on the wrong places in your mind and habits.”

Just like in the parable of the Babies in the River, the solution isn’t to attempt to complete more and more but to address the source of the tasks.

Increasing focus and saying “no” to more things means fewer tasks.

While those tasks will also not get “finished,” your focus increases the progress you experience (because you are working on fewer things, making more progress on the few you choose). By taking on fewer projects, you ensure that your time is spent on the areas that will make the most significant difference in your life and business. Because you are focused on more substantial work, it’s more engaging and satisfying.

What if you put pressure on the front end? What should I be engaged in? What makes the best use of my time and energy?

What if you exercised your “no” muscle more frequently?

Work less

As I continued reading, Jim threw another zinger. He quotes J. Willard Marriott’s philosophy that we should “Work hard. Make every minute on the job count. Work fewer hours – some of us waste half our time.

Cutting your hours is a forcing mechanism to build your “no“ muscle!

It’s an idea so crazy that it just might work!

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