The pesky “to-do” list: Could your incompletions be stressing you out?

By Snowden McFall    

As a small business owner, you have an enormous amount to get done every day. And if you’ve been hurt by the economy, you more than likely have fewer employees who are doing more, which means your to-do lists never end and at the end of the day you often feel frustrated.

Half-started projects, incomplete reports, neglected client correspondence, and business books begun and never finished all drain large amounts of energy and actually create stress.

Incompletions [all those things described above] can create significant anxiety, worry, and tension. Every day, you make commitments to do things. Saying you’ll meet a client at a certain time is an agreement. Committing to have an employee review done by a certain date is an agreement. Promising to send that article you read to a new contact is an agreement.

Keep your agreements

Most business owners are good at keeping agreements with prospects and clients, or they would quickly go out of business. In today’s world of ethics and integrity violations, people have significant distrust of business. The only way to overcome that is to be stellar in your reliability and commitment-keeping.

Broken agreements destroy relationships. If you don’t do what you say you will do when promised, that’s a broken agreement. The problem for many entrepreneurs is keeping agreements with themselves.

Promising themselves they will get up early to exercise and then rolling over when the alarm goes off is a broken agreement. Telling themselves they will review that new report on technology and never look at it is a broken agreement. Pile up enough of those and you have a fundamental sense of discomfort, distrust of self, and poor self-esteem.

Completion is powerful

In “The Path of Least Resistance,” Robert Fritz describes the circle of completion. The three phases in this circle are germination, assimilation, and completion.

Germination is the initial startup phase of a project. This is usually where you feel the greatest excitement and enthusiasm. You’ll most likely share that contagious energy with others, get your client fired up, and propel your team forward.

Assimilation is the phase where people take action, where you’re actually doing what needs to be done to make things happen. This is where many people get stuck and never completely finish projects. They get halfway done or quit just short of realizing their goals. That is a big mistake because they lose out on all the success, joy, and power that comes from completion. All too many businesses get stuck in assimilation.

Every time you reach completion there is a distinct and special energy you experience. Reflect on the last time you finished some goal or project you’d been working toward for some time. How did you feel? Were you satisfied and pleased with yourself, perhaps even proud?

Did you delight your client? Did you finish on time and under budget? Does that client now value you highly and want to do more work with you? That great feeling is all part of the energy of completion; that energy gets you motivated to accomplish your next goal and actually fuels the next project.

How to get more completion in your business

• Do a walk through. Walk through your office and notice what is incomplete. Are there piles and piles of papers to be filed, hundreds of emails to be read, contracts to be reviewed? Take 10 minutes right
now and just do one of those tasks. Feel the completion.

• Perform a 10-second tidy. Are there any old newspapers or half-read industry magazines in your office? Recycle them or throw them away right now.

• Prioritize your day. Tackle the top six most highly leveraged activities first thing each day. The ones that have the biggest ROI and payoff for your clients and your business should be the top six. Focus on those first every day.

• Give praise. Reward yourself and your employees every time you have a big completion by taking everyone out to lunch or passing out bonuses or handwritten thank-you notes to each employee who worked on the project. Celebrate successes.

Completions can fuel your energy for new projects, hugely improve your productivity and well-being, and get you motivated! Start tackling your incompletions now and see how much better you feel and how much stronger your business becomes as a result.

Snowden McFall, professional speaker, trainer, author, is the owner of Fired Up! Professional Speaking and Corporate Training. She can be reached at 904-940-7355 or through

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