Often it may be that I am doing something else at the moment that may or may not be important to complete right now, and redirecting to complete this task would seem inefficient, yet I suspect this may actually be the better course of action.
There are things in the garage that I mentally engage in donate that to a thrift store, take that to the dump, sell that, return that each time I happen across them. This may seem innocent, clearly there is no burning need to deal with any of these, no urgency, yet each time I expend mental effort on these items, I waste time lose time that wont come back.
The recent interest in essentialism the focus on things that truly matter has refocused my realization of the danger of stuff and how it not only wastes time, but takes us away from what is truly important. Stuff can eat time.
I see this return to unfinished business as similar to being on a hamster wheel- going in circles with the illusion of progress. It is not just an issue of wasted time, it is an issue of spending time on things that do not provide value. I for one want to extract more value from my time on this planet and not waste it thinking about bills sitting on the desk corner or untended shrubbery.
Now lest you get the wrong impression, Im not saying that one must only spend time on things that provide clear and concrete value. I quite enjoy gardening in part because of the satisfaction that completing a task provides. I get value out of some mundane tasks hand washing dishes for example because they actually provide thinking time a period of focus that actually gets rid of distraction a great time to get clear on things.
However, if a task repeatedly tugs at my thoughts, it becomes an interrupter and detracts from value. This is the problem at hand.
There is a first step you can implement today do it now, do it later, but give yourself a deadline, decide not to do it. This is not a new solution to the problem it was popularized by Peter Drucker, but it can work and it worth trying out.
In some cases, the do it now approach works fairly easily for tasks that will take less than five minutes, you really dont have an excuse not to deal with it. Do it now. If you have something that is more involved, make a date with yourself. Schedule a time not just to start, but block out the time to actually get it done. If you need to interrupt what you are doing, set another appointment.
Finally, and this often seems like the hardest, decide not to do it. If you take this route, agree with yourself that there will be no regrets and that your decision is final. Ive thrown away a broken toy before, only to find myself rescuing it from the rubbish and restarting my cycle of wistful good intentioned ineffectiveness.
In some cases, you can go a step further and automate away your inefficiencies. Automate you bill pay, install sprinklers (or hire a gardener), set up email filters, pay your children an allowance to manage certain tasks, all of these can help you deal with tasks that you tend to put off in a more permanent way.
In closing, a word of caution. I do hope this article has perhaps awoken you to the realization of the need to take action earlier and with certainty rather than putting things off. But this is not an easy task. It takes work to make this new approach to unfinished tasks into effect and to make it a default rather than a mental effort to pull off. Approach this effort with full focus and you will find it becomes easier with practice, practice, practice. Good luck and get off the hamster wheel!