What do you do when you’re finished?


A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast whilst doing the dishes and my ears pricked up at the mention of ‘rituals of completion’. Although I don’t call them that, these rituals form part of my own productivity jam and are something I talk about with clients, so I was really interested to hear Gretchen Rubin’s take on this subject in her Happier podcast.

(I love the name they came up with: Rituals of completion. As someone who always has a melt-down when it’s time to name something, I’m filled with admiration - and, let’s be honest, envy - for those who have that gift!)

Put simply, a ritual of completion is a nifty way of describing the thing (or things) you do to acknowledge that you’ve finished something. From what I remember, Gretchen mainly talked about this in relation to big projects (such as the end of her book tour, for example), but in my view it can be just as beneficial when applied on a smaller scale.

For example, when you’re working on something big it’ll probably take a while to get to the end. But you can still mark the small steps you complete along the way.

If you often feel you have too many tabs open in your brain, it can be really useful to acknowledge that you’ve done as much as you intend to do on a particular piece of work, before you start the next thing. Pausing in that way will set you up for single tasking success, meaning your hard-working brain knows where to focus. (I don’t know about you, but if I start something new without properly finishing the thing I was doing before, I find it difficult to be fully present with whatever I’m working on. My poor brain keeps wondering about the other thing.)

If you’re wondering what mini-ritual you could create to mark the completion of something, might I suggest that you include putting things away and closing stuff down? Not very glamorous, I know, but trust me on this! It’s so tempting to reach for the next thing without tidying up after ourselves, and before you know it your desk has become an overwhelm-inducing resting place for endless piles of stuff. If I’d only taken the time to pause and put things back in their rightful place when I’d finished working on something, I’d have felt so much calmer in my last 9-5 office job! (I’ve written more about the importance of setting yourself up for success by taking a moment to organise your workspace here and here.)

Your ritual of completion could (dare I say, should) also include a break of some description. I’ve mentioned before that I like to mark the transition from one piece of work to the next by doing a spot of hula hooping in the garden or, when the weather isn’t quite so appealing,  juggling. (Update: I’ve nailed the hooping, but I’m still terrible at juggling!) Moving about and using a different part of my brain gives me a lovely boost of energy and makes it easier to switch to the next thing. On lower energy days I might treat myself to a little lie down on the floor, which can be just as beneficial.

Those are some of the ways in which rituals of completion can help day-to-day, but what about the bigger things? We don’t all have book tours to celebrate, but you may well have a big project on the go, and many of us work with clients for a fixed period of time. What ritual of completion could you come up with to honour those things when they’re done?

First (and most important), give yourself space to celebrate what you’ve achieved. It’s such a shame to get to the end of something meaningful and then move on to the next thing without so much as a by-your-leave! We should allow ourselves to bask in the glow of our own brilliance for a moment or two. To drink in and enjoy the sense of achievement. Even if the thing you’ve finished didn’t go according to plan or was a bit tedious (tax return, anyone?!), you can still celebrate the fact that it’s done!

Your ritual of completion could also allow you some time to reflect. What went well? What might you do differently next time?

Think how lovely it would be to have a ‘thing’ that you do every time something big is finished? That could be as simple as taking yourself off to your favourite café and enjoying an hour or two with a good book and a slice of cake!

Running a business is not easy. When we pause to enjoy our successes, however small, we fill our joy tank (as my wonderful coach would say) and reconnect with why we’re doing what we do. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Do you already have rituals of completion in your life (even if, like me, you weren’t calling them that)? Can you think of some inventive and fun ways to signal when something is finished? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

(If you’d like to hear her take on this subject, you can listen to this episode of Happier with Gretchen Rubin. )

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