Getting $*@% Done

I’ve got a co-worker who can’t seem to get her crap together.  “I’m still working on that.”  “I’m really busy.”  “I know I’m late, I’ll get to it later this week.”  She seems to have a thousand irons in the fire.  Many go in the fire, but very few get pulled out to be finished off.  She drives me nuts (that, is another story).

One the other hand, I have another co-worker who gets his stuff done.  Before another task is started, one is crossed off the list.  I haven’t been in career mode long [….] just under 9 years [….] and co-worker #2 is the second individual I have met who gets tasks done.  It is a skill, it is a talent to cover that much ground – and I am envious.

I’ve been trying to learn this skill for years.  What I’ve found is 2 main things need to happen: 1) Know what needs to be done and 2) finish the hard stuff.

My wife recently asked me to remodel a bathroom (more on that in another post).  I could have easily knocked it out in a weekend.  But the way to do it in a weekend – insert shower, paint the walls and switch toilet to a tall toilet – would not have made my wife happy.  On the other hand, she didn’t want me cutting studs from rough sawn lumber.  If you don’t know what needs to be done, you can’t finish tasks [….] you either don’t do enough, in which case you do not pass go and you do not collect $200, or you spend too much time doing unnecessary tasks.  Identifying what qualifies as completing the task is key to getting tasks done – just like Goldilocks, you need to find out what is just right.

Second, you need to finish the hard stuff.  I firmly believe the 80/20 rule applies here.  When you have a task in front of you, 80% of it will come easy, and take 20% of the time.  20% of it is difficult, and takes 80% of the time.  The difficult part is where we typically fizzle out.  Take my bathroom remodel for example, the plumbing ate my lunch.  I spent an entire Saturday trying to plumb in the drain [….] I thought it would take an hour.  But, I persevered and wouldn’t quit until it was done.  It took time (and about 5 trips to Home Depot), it was frustrating but I didn’t move on until it was done.  To get tasks done, you have to power through the hard stuff.

We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of moving on to another task without finishing what we are currently working on.  It’s the easy thing to do.  The hard thing is to finish the task we are working on.  Trust me, it’s a skill and talent.

Do you know someone who just “gets things done?”  What do you think drives them to do it?


5 thoughts on “Getting $*@% Done

  1. I certainly understand your frustration with the plumbing. In our bathroom remodel we had a heck of a time getting it done. Honestly, the hardest and slowest part of the project was getting all of that done: cutting up the floor, planning out where to cut off the old pipes, driving around looking for the correct Fernco adapters/couplers and buying like 4 of every angle bend the store had, and then just playing some twisted form of Legos trying to get the right bends, twists and slopes. I thought the project would take forever based on how slow that went (and how frustrating it was). But once we got that done, it really came together quickly.

    I’m good about getting things done at work, because I obsess over detail there (which is part of my profession, programming). But in home improvement I am awful at doing the “finishing touches” (as my wife can attest). Once something is 99% done I prefer to move on and start the next major project because I’m antsy about it, and I tend to leave small things to finish up later (like say fixing grout on one small corner of our kitchen; or puttying, sanding and painting nail holes/indents on base molding).

  2. We recently remodeled our house with the help of family and friends. It takes a ton of time, but the finished result is rewarding. You get to see progress built with you own 2 hands ( or 40 hands, but who’s counting?).

    I share your frustrations with coworkers. I think the norm is to have excuses and leave tasks unfinished…

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