Loose Ends: How Many Loose Ends Do You Have?

OK ladies (and heavy metal dudes), I’m not talking about split ends, I’m talking about loose ends.

How Many Loose Ends Do You Have
I’m no hairdresser (well, actually…).

I’m not talking about the band either (what_a_classic – great video too) – I’m talking about unfinished projects.

So how many loose ends do you have?

Do you ever say to people things like ‘I just have so much going on right now?

What exactly?

Do you even know?

What Are Loose Ends?

Whether business, around the home or personal, I’m talking about things you start (including things you say you’ll do – that’s starting them in a way too) and don’t finish.

Whether it’s a fix-up job you promised your partner you’d take care of around the house, a dentists appointment you are overdue and never get around to setting up, a car service you know you should take care of, unfinished business projects…

Good and Bad Loose Ends

So let’s get one thing clear: loose ends don’t have to be a problem at all. I have many myself and I’m fine with that (believe it or not I have a list of about 50 projects which is all of the stuff I wanted to do but never had time to when I was in full-time employment – most of these are on-going projects, most of which have lots of loose ends – but good ones).

Loose ends are a problem when they bother you.

Loose ends that you don’t want take a lot of mental energy.

These are the bad loose ends.

Back to the example of the car service. Maybe you’ve been putting that off because you suspect the car has a problem that the mechanic will pick up during the service and that will be expensive. So you put it off because you don’t want to hear that bad news. It’s not helping anyone to hide from this information and it’s a problem that could be getting worse and potentially more expensive but you put it off anyway out of fear. Plus you just can’t deal with it right now because you’ve got too much on. Too many other loose ends.

By the way, you’re not thinking about these loose ends all of the time. The time that you will tend to think of them is when you have nothing else going on. When there are no other distractions, these loose ends will pop up and remind you it’s still there. It’s not going to let you relax.

Good loose ends are unfinished projects that don’t take any mental energy at all unless you want them too. They have positive feelings attached to them. One of mine is a house renovation that I’m doing which I’m thoroughly enjoying – it’s a huge challenge and every day I go there, I learn a tonne of new stuff. Occasionally little things bother me about it, but overall it’s a very positive project I’m getting a lot from. There’s noting there particularly that I need to hide from or that causes me any stress at all.

How To Deal With (Bad) Loose Ends

So how do we deal with all of these loose ends? (i.e. the bad ones)

The answer is really quite simple.

Get it done.

For the project manager with the failing project that’s stuck…

…realize (discuss this with your boss if you have to to manage expectations before killing the project) that closing a project because it no longer makes sense might mean a failed project but that doesn’t mean that you or your business is a failure for ending it. Quite the contrary. It’s not a failure, it’s a decision. It’s a decision to invest your resources (time, money, people, skills, physical and mental energy) elsewhere where you will get a better return.

For the husband who told his wife that he’d fix that door hinge before the door falls off…

…just get it done. No excuses, just get on with it or admit you’re not going to and get someone else to do it for you. Getting it out of the way means you can get on with other things and this particular thing will take no more mental energy. You probably don’t even realize how much this little thing is taking from you all the time it’s another unfinished thing cluttering up your life. Just get it done and move on.

I could go on but you get the idea.

Don’t you?

What If It’s Too Big

Just one more thing.

Your particular project which is causing you the most anxiety may just be too big.

You may be saying… Alan. That’s easy for you to say, but you just don’t understand. I can’t just fix this really big problem…

Fair enough, it’s big.

But there is no big problem that can’t be broken down into smaller pieces.

So do that.

If you’re problem is too big, then break it down into smaller pieces so that you can keep moving forward.

Do It!!

So now you know what you need to do…

Remember – good and bad loose ends.

By all means, keep all the good ones, but kill all the bad ones (just do it!!) – as quickly as you can so they can no longer take any time and space in your life.


Loose Ends: How Many Loose Ends Do You Have? — 10 Comments

  1. Thanks for the reminder to clean up the loose ends. Now I have to go do all of that “stuff” I had been putting off.

    Sometimes, we let stuff pile up and it’s actually more work to think about it than doing the real task. But it’s a great feeling when you can finish up those loose ends and clear your mind.

    • Hey Andy,

      Hope you’re well & you make a good point – sometimes it is easier just to start getting things done or do them as soon as they appear, rather than adding them to your ‘list’ (then they end up seeming bigger and create more overhead).

      thanks for the comment,

  2. ‘ Just get it done’ – nothing like a bit of tough love, Alan!

    I agree with this and it’s worked well for me too. When a task has been on my to-do- list for a while, I do end up attaching negative feelings towards it as it starts to mock me. But once the task is done – woot! Time to party!

    Your ‘just get it done’ advice is sterling – it removes any movement towards procrastination.

    – Razwana

    • Lol. Tough love. Is that what that was?

      You’re starting to know me too well Razwana. I’ll be doing my good cop, bad cop routine next…

      Anyway, I’m just copying Nike.

      Just Do It.

  3. Ok Alan…were you in my car this morning as I was going from meeting to meeting?
    I actually said this OUTLOUD in my car.
    THANKs for the reminders…and thoughts.
    You are a good egg!

  4. Are you talking to me? Yes, I think you are. I am suffering from insomnia – going to sleep ok but waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep. I put it down too many unfinished “projects”. Not sure why I haven’t just done them.

    • I like that 😉

      Are you talking to me? Well, I guess I am then.

      yep – too much going on can definitely cause sleeping problems. I get this often and not even from ‘bad’ unfinished projects – normally just from having lots of things going on that I’m excited about. My mind is buzzing with ideas for the next day and I can’t sleep.

      Doesn’t tend to be a problem if I’ve done things which are very tiring through the day though…

  5. Love this one Alan, I always have some loose ends and they can cause stress. I must get rid of those that are not important and only work on the ones that really matter. Great idea to make them into smaller pieces so you can get a little done at a time to complete a loose end. Excellent!

    • Thanks Lisa.

      Stress is a whole huge topic of it’s own but yep, having too much on (just like having an overloaded inbox for some people) can certainly cause it…

      Half the time we let our lives get cluttered with stuff that’s not really that important but there ends up being so much that it gets difficult to see clearly.

      I’m as guilty as anyone of this – but most of the time I can manage my inbox and my (many) loose ends are good ones. Most of the time…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *