Do The Work Until It’s Done – West Point Life Lesson #9
When I was a Plebe (freshman), I had to swing by my Team Leader’s room to use a computer to work on a document for a class assignment. My Team Leader’s roommate allowed me to use his computer. After about fifteen minutes I was tired of working on the assignment and told my Team Leader’s roommate that I was going to do something else and come back later. He responded, “No, complete what you started, and then you can go do something else.” I turned back to the computer a little frustrated, but completed the assignment and got out of there in about an hour. It was a hard hour, but I was elated to have the project finished when I finally left his room that night.
It’s funny what I remember from my past and what I totally forget about over time. I remember that moment vividly because it triggered something in my mind that I have applied in my life ever since. Finish what I start and do the work until it’s done. Up to that point I had a riddled past of “incompletes” in my life and was struggling with my school work at the Academy. I was easily distracted and had a hard time concentrating for long periods of time, but my Team Leader’s roommate showed me that I was capable of seeing a project through to the end if I just showed some discipline and stuck it out.
How many times do you allow yourself to get distracted in life? What are the triggers in your life that are holding you back from finishing what you started? Today I use a simple system known as time batching. I have to use time batching because I’m a father of three young kids and work from home. I’m forced to work in select time intervals, but if I do so with focused effort I get so much more accomplished each day.
I learned this concept through a technique known as The Pomodoro (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/). I force myself to work in batches of time for 25 minutes. I’m simply recreating the environment in my Team Leaders room where I must concentrate on a task or a group of like tasks for a set period of time, in my case 25 minutes. I have found that 25 minute blocks seem to work well because I can usually get some work done in that amount of time before I get an interruption. I set a timer and work diligently until the alarm goes off signaling that my 25 minutes are up. I take a five minute break after each 25 minutes and then I jump back into my project. Before I know it, a couple of hours have passed and I have made a huge dent in my to-do list!
I love the feeling I have after completing a productive day and can honestly look back and say that I have led an effective life thus far. That night in my Team Leader’s room helped me change my mind set on how I approach my work and I’m thankful for the experience. What are you doing to ensure you complete what you start?