The completion habit

I’m a big fan of lists. The To-Do List, in particular, is one of my favorite productivity tactics. It helps me organize my thoughts and plan my time. Unfortunately, over the years I’ve come to suspect that my To-Do List habit creates as many problems as it solves.

This is mostly due to the fact that my To-Do lists are epic in scale and scope. They skip right over Realistic, slog grimly past Wildly Ambitious, and don’t stop until they arrive at Too Much To Accomplish in Any Human Lifetime. 

In a way, that’s not a bad thing. There’s value in identifying tasks and goals you would like to accomplish, but if you don’t include a reasonable time frame, you don’t have any criteria for success. At the end of the day (or week, or month) you may have accomplished many things, but your list is still populated by unfinished tasks and unrealized ambitions.

After a while, this becomes the norm, and you’ve developed the habit of not completing what you set out to do. This habit is insidious and corrosive. Over time, it becomes easier and easier to let things slip, to accept a partial result, to put things off. This habit, once entrenched, makes acquiring any other habit more difficult.

That’s why The Completion Habit is so pivotal to building your habit system. Recording your habit performance every day (the GIDIG habit) is a form of completion, but it’s also important to focus on actually performing all of your daily habits. This isn’t difficult if you start small, add habits slowly, and never try to juggle more than you can reasonably complete. Because if you take on too many tasks, you’re likely to end up with very few habits.