Getting it Done: The Energy Surge of Completing Things

Remember that late-night term paper in school? How it would languish in the bottom of your backpack until the night before the deadline? Then you’d pull it out because you had to, and after a long weary night, you’d finish it. And those few hours of sleep before class? Bliss, even compared to the eight hours you got the night before.

I’ve been thinking about the energy surge that comes with actually completing things we set out to do. Like the bow at the finale of a play we’ve worked tirelessly to perform. Or sliding the homemade bread into the oven after an afternoon of kneading, rising, and flouring. Or standing under the hot shower at the swimming pool after a rigorous lesson. Or putting the thank-you note in the mail. Or reading the last page of a long novel. Or finishing that presentation for your boss. Or packed bags. Or hanging up after making that difficult phone call.

Compare that with the exhaustion of having things left undone. Like the semi-painted kitchen, unpaid bills, half-emptied suitcase, incomplete manuscripts, chipped toenail polish, overflowing laundry, grimy teeth, empty gas tank, unspoken apologies, nagging health concerns, wilting plants, or sending your kids to bed when you promised yourself you’d tuck them in with a story.

I don’t have any research to back this up, but I have an experienced hunch there is something physiologically positive going on when we complete what we set out to do. And because of this, we should be wise about what kinds of things we are expecting of ourselves. For example, unless we really have time to complete the building of the fence this summer, it is more wise to leave it alone until we can. Otherwise, we’ll be standing at the kitchen sink all winter looking at a half-done fence with a sense of dismay and maybe even subtle irritation.

What are your favorite things to complete or incomplete? Do you think there is a correlation between completion and energy?

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