There’s a phrase that might be familiar to you if you’re into agile methodology stuff: stop starting and start finishing. I quite like that.
Any good process worth its salt focuses attention on what needs to be done next — and then puts a premium on actually completing them. Why? Because breaking things down into small, discrete components and prioritizing them is the fundamental secret to getting both big and small things done.
Getting things done is the imperative of the digital age. Both for personal things as well as business-type things.
Our company, Junior, starts every day around the Kanban board and prioritizes the day’s tasks. The goal is to make sure we’re all focused on completing things that matter. This one, 15-minute stand-up pretty much eliminates the need for any other big meetings during the day (because, as you know, meetings are generally toxic to getting said things done).
Back when I worked in advertising, I used to hear silly sayings like: “nothing is ever done. We just run out of time and money.” That’s emblematic of an analog, launch-and-leave worldview; it’s more or less bullshit in an always-on, digital worldview.
Relying on inspiration fosters lazy thinking. Anyone can have a brilliant idea, anyone can start something. It’s finishing that takes perseverance, and as I’ve found, true brilliance. Finishing is hard, iterative work.
There are a million reasons why we don’t/won’t finish things we start: Not enough time. Too much other work. Not wanting to work late. Family obligations. Falling out of love with an idea. Boredom. Lack of money. Fleeting inspiration. Not enough expertise. Not enough energy. Fallout 4.
Starting is fun. Finishing is grueling.
Maybe you’re like me and at some point in your life you realized that you have started more things than you’ll ever finish in a lifetime. Flashes of oddball ideas kept in Moleskines, Google Docs, in Evernote and in emails-to-self. Company and business ideas, apps, first chapters of novels, code snippets, game demos, guitar riffs and plans to rule the world. Oh, and Medium articles.
And maybe, like me, you decided: enough is enough: time to stop starting and start finishing.
“Fail faster” is the wrong mantra for today’s world. “Finish faster” is more accurate. Finish faster, then move on to the next thing and finish that. Rinse and repeat. Pretty simple.
I have become ever-vigilant in the finishing-things department. Whether it’s something small, like this article, or something big — like a company or business idea — I’ve realized that while I have always been addicted to starting things, I now find joy in finishing them as well (even if finishing is taking something to the brink of the so-called ‘Cortez Moment’).
When I’m recruiting for Junior, I look for people who finish things. A portfolio of partially-realized ideas doesn’t fly in today’s design and technology marketplace. One finished thing is worth ten incomplete things.
So say it with me — say it out loud: stop starting and start finishing. Beautiful, right? A kind of verbal cudgel to snap your focus back to where it belongs: on completion. Version one. The beta. Whatever.
And now that this article is finished… I have an idea for new kind of mobile game. Let me load up the latest Unity build and show you… It’s almost finished.