In our busy day-to-day lives, it’s so easy to get distracted and understandable that we do. Given the constant updates via our Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, and steady bombardment of emails and text messages, it’s a wonder that we accomplish much of anything during our day!
Picture this: You arrive home after a long day at work. You remove your jacket, and before you get it hung in your coat closet, your phone notifies you of an incoming text, so you put your jacket on the nearest available surface and begin digging through your purse looking for your phone, pulling out oldgum wrappers and your sunglasses and wallet and, oh, here are those receipts that you’ve been meaning to reconcile via your account online, so you leave your pile of your purse’s contents as you grab the receipts and walk toward the home office to grab your laptop, but as you walk past the kitchen, your stomach grumbles and you realize you forgot to eat lunch, so you set down the receipts on the nearest available surface and grab a snack from the pantry, but before you take a bite of your granola bar, you notice the clean dishes in the dishwasher need to be unloaded, so your granola bar is left on the counter unopened as you begin to put the clean dishes away, but before you can finish emptying the dishwasher, you remember you need to bake cookies tonight to bring to your daughter’s school in the morning, and you don’t even know if you have the ingredients you need to make them, so you leave the dishwasher task unfinished as you begin to search for your famous cookie recipe, and…you get the idea. In a matter of five minutes, you’ve left a trail of unfinished tasks in your wake, and created a few more in the process.
Our to-do lists are never-ending! And, when we’re distracted, our to-do lists can get even longer as we create more and more uncompleted and half-finished tasks. So what are we busy people to do?
One effective way to combat this is to remind yourself to “close the circle,” otherwise known as “finish what you started.” Clients who try this technique find that it’s a helpful reminder - it’s an “oh, wait, I’m doing this right now.” It’s about being able to stay focused on one thing and complete the task before moving onto the next task at hand, such as hanging up your jacket, and returning the contents of your purse, and eating a snack, and emptying the dishwasher.
Honestly, there are truly hundreds of circles to be closed every single day - little projects just waiting for completion - and it can feel overwhelming when they are unfinished. The psychological weight of all of those half-completed projects and nagging to-dos adds up. When you constantly leave things unfinished, your poor brain never gets a break. It’s continuously holding space for “that thing I still need to do.”
Taking time to close the circle takes the task off your to-do list, gives you the feeling of accomplishment, and removes that nagging task from taking up space in your brain. So instead of leaving a trail of unfinished tasks in your wake, try to keep the phrase “close the circle” top of mind. I find it to be a gentle reminder for myself and my clients.