How to properly end things

There is a line in Atomic Habits that I really like: “I’m just proactively lazy. It gives you so much time back”. It refers to resetting a room after every use so that it’s ready the next time you want to use it. I like to apply it to my work computer, and I am not above suggesting that your New Year’s resolution should be to follow my lead.

So, how do we properly end things?

At the end of a task:

  • Update the task in your task manager; don’t wait for a boring meeting to update all your open Jira tickets at once.
    Why this helps: Task managers are there so other people can know what’s happening; don’t leave them hanging.
  • Update anyone who needs to know.
    Why this helps: There’s something in the phrase “they need to know” that I think makes it rather obvious why updating them is helpful.
  • Close all apps, tabs and files related to that task. Move anything you still need to your to do list or your notes; do not manage future tasks by leaving tabs open.
    Why this helps: It’s like having a tidy desk. I love a tidy desk, and so does your attention span.

At the end of a meeting:

  • Add all notes and tasks to your agenda file.
    Why this helps: Anyone can catch up as soon as the meeting is over, rather than five minutes before the next meeting when you happened to look at the agenda and realised it’s empty.
  • Schedule any follow ups.
    Why this helps: People’s work calendars are an early worm situation; book them while they’re available. You can also say “strike while the iron is hot” to entice them to actually accept the invitation, if you’re comfortable with two cliches for one action.
  • Update anyone who needs to know.
    Why this helps: I refer you to my earlier argument.

At the end of the day:

  • Check your open tasks and update, reschedule or otherwise manage them if need be.
    Why this helps: You’ll thank yourself in the morning when you don’t have to figure out where you were based on your hazy memory of what should have been 16 hours ago, assuming it wasn’t last Friday.
  • Check that you’re prepared for all of tomorrow’s meetings.
    Why this helps: Staves off the panic of figuring out you’re not ready when the 10 minutes notification pops up.
  • Tidy up and move any scribbled notes to your central note location.
    Why this helps: Having fully formed sentences in a central location is much better than a few words on multiple post-its that may or may not be related. But you need to do it while you remember what the post-it was trying to tell you.

If you take this on as a New Year’s resolution, let me know how it goes in the Replies to this page.

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