You Need To Know When You Are Done

Knowing what you mean by ‘done’ when you are talking about your project is very important. If you don’t have a finish line clearly marked, then you will keep running forever.

Not having a defined termination point is very damaging because it means that:

  1. You probably are using energy to run towards something that you don’t need to pursue any more
  2. You likely are a victim of the law of diminishing returns. (A little bit of effort at the beginning makes a big difference, a lot of work as you go further only has a small, incremental, impact)
  3. You never have the psychological satisfaction of closing a season and starting a new one.

We have all heard the story of the investor who was asked: “How much money is enough?” To which she replies: “Just a little bit more.”

The pursuit of a little bit more, or better, or further is an excellent driving force. But if you don’t have milestones to measure your progress, you will become more like an overgrown lawn with many different types of weeds than a mighty oak that grows with a specific purpose.

Define what ‘done’ means for your project — done means that you have made a distinct change in the world. Maybe it is a new product or service. Maybe it is a change to process, or approach. Use your definition of done as your final milestone. When you achieve ‘done’ then you don’t work on this project anymore. You need to know when you are done. And you need to stop when you are done.