Last week, we talked about follow-up and follow-through when it’s them…when they drop the ball and techniques you can use to catch that glass ball before it shatters on the floor. Today, we look at the opposite.

Today is the other side of that coin. This week, the problem is you. You start things but never finish. There’s just too much going on. But if asked what you have on your plate, you really can’t even name that much. You don’t know what it is, you just know it’s a lot.

Let’s jump in and see if we can solve this one.

The most basic and important organizational practice is to write things down. Don’t leave anything to memory. If you do, you’re working too hard. The strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink.

If you’ve followed me for very long, you know I’ve carried a memo pad my entire adult life. Today, new input goes instantly into my phone through voice input. If I’m at my computer, one keyboard shortcutc brings up a window where I can create a new task. The point is simple. Everything goes in the system. Forgetting becomes irrelevant.

But even when we write things down, things still fall through the cracks. We do what we wrote, and this applies to whether we wrote it on paper or when we put it in a digital list. But then we neglect to ask ourselves one simple question.

What’s the Follow-Up?

When you do the task, ask yourself, “What’s the follow-up?” Be ruthless about it. When you do this exercise in the moment, the answer is usually obvious. That follow-up now goes immediately into your system. No more forgetting. Nothing falling through the cracks.

Is It a Project?

Some tasks on your list are easy to accomplish and there is no follow-up. Great! Check it off as done. Other times, you do the task and realize some loose end remains. The follow-up goes on your list.

Then, we have one more type. You know at the beginning your undertaking has multiple steps. Think through the entire project on the front end. Identify as many steps as you can. This practice saves considerable time during the life of the project.

Most importantly, figure out what “done” looks like. How will you know when the project is “finished”? Until that “definition of done” is achieved, there is a follow-up. Did you already identify that follow-up when you planned the project? If not, now is the time to identify it and put it on the list.

Read What You Wrote

Just because something goes on your task list doesn’t mean it has to be completed today. If you truly have everything you have to do or want to do trapped in your system, the task list never becomes “done.” You’ll always have projects, opportunities, hopes, and dreams. The details of all of that lives on your list.

While it doesn’t have to be done, you do have to look at what you wrote to be sure you’re not bumping up against a deadline. People often ask, “How many tasks should I have on my list for today?” The answer I would give is, “As many as you can comfortably review during the day.” Small tasks can be handled during spare moments. Turn potentially wasted time into productive time by grabbing a few low-priority tasks you can complete quickly.

Total Control and Peace of Mind

What’s different after implementing what you’ve experienced today? You’re planning on the front end. You’re asking yourself, “What’s the follow-up?” You’re never letting the sun set without at least looking at everything on your list for today. Nothing is falling through the cracks. Life just got easier.

Those who are blessed with the most talent don’t necessarily outperform everyone else. It’s the people with follow-through who excel.”

Mary Kay Ash

Life is too short and time too precious to waste one more day. If you are someone who stumbled upon this site for the first time, let me help you take a major step forward right now. When you join my email list, I’ll give you two free gifts. The first will get your desk clean. The second will put everything you have to do in one place. Plus, each week you’ll hear from me with nuts & bolts tools and strategies to make life easier and more productive. You’re one click away from making it happen