One day, manager asked software programmer to complete small coding task and report back once done.

After some time, programmer came back to the manager and informed that task is complete.

Manager asked,” Are you sure that there is nothing else pending on this task ?”.

After a thought, programmer said,” there is something else pending for this task. Let me finish it.”.

He went back and updated pending documentation for the program. He came back to the manager and said,” It is complete now.”

Manager again asked,” Are you sure? Give it a thought.”.

After a while, programmer said,” There is something else on it. Let me go back and finish.”

Programmer went back to the business user and confirmed that program indeed meets his requirement. He signed it off with user and documented it.

Then, he approached manager confidently and said,” Am pretty sure that this task is now complete.”

Satisfied, manager commented,”Who is best person to finish remaining activities – of course YOU.”

We often encounter such unfinished tasks in our personal as well as professional life – whether its pending homework from the kids or half-cooked presentation by subordinate. Sometimes, such deliverables do not get a chance to be finished. They form messy part of our work lives – something we always tag as ‘to do later’.

If you want to be better organized and do not want to be buried under unfinished tasks, articulate completion of task upfront. Even if you are delegating it, try to define ‘completeness’ with the person who is supposed to work on it. Once task is finished, review whether it is really complete in all aspects or need to be worked upon further.

Let us take simple example of the everyday task  – making a bed once you get up in the morning. Does only arranging pillows/comforter neatly complete it ? There might be a book you read last night still lying on side table or mobile chargers still turned on. Taking care of such smaller details is really what ‘completes’ task of making a bed.

I remember quote from seasoned project manager. He used to mention (obviously in context of IT project) that such unfinished tasks keep on piling up and form a mountain that you can not climb anymore.

Then, only option is really to START OVER. Remember marking all emails in inbox as ‘read’ when they are just too many to handle 🙂