The Creative Entrepreneur’s 5 Top Tips: So What If You’re Not a Completer-Finisher?

If you’re a creative entrepreneur, chances are you’re a Starter, a Doer, a Disruptive Thinker, a Big Picture Strategic Planner … not a Completer-Finisher.

The most tiresome and unappealing of Meredith Belbin’s infamous 8 team roles, the Completer-Finisher is a mythical beast that actually enjoys doing the crap you hate: dotting Is, crossing Ts, reformatting all the bulletpoints in the final report, making sure the logos don’t jiggle between slides on the PPT.

Should you worry about not being a Completer-Finisher? Look, you’re not going to change yourself. You’re never going to enjoy doing the washing up, pairing up matching socks, trawling through reams of code to find the open bracket, or filling in your expenses claim for the whole damn year. No-one does. Not even Completer-Finishers. That’s why I said ‘mythical’. I’m pretty sure these people don’t exist.

But you’re running a business so someone has to do the finishing, or you don’t get paid. The product goes out late or not quite right, the client’s not quite happy … and you regret it every time that typo you ‘forgot’ to change at 2:47am for FinalReport_v13_FinalFinal.pdf pokes you in the eye when you show your otherwise-perfect document to a sweetly expectant new client.

If you’re a good delegator, you’re already thinking “I’ll get someone else to do this for me”, right? If you’re a one-woman startup band that’s no use – you have to be all of the 8 Belbin Team Roles, including the ones you’re hopeless at. And it’s extra frustrating for superb delegators like you, when the little fiddly bits come up that just can’t be delegated. Like filing your own illegible back-of-envelope scribbles – Ivan the Intern wouldn’t know if it’s important, even if he could read it.

So here’s 5 tips for Completing and Finishing, when every atom of your creative, entrepreneurial body is fighting against it:

1. Pavlov’s Dog: Friday 2pm. Load up a table with cakes and cold beers in the middle of the office. Make a list of all the crap you don’t want to finish. Look at the cakes. Think of the beer. Kill the list. No beer until every item is done. Works even better if you race against colleagues. You might even come to associate To-Do Lists with the pleasure of a cold beer.

2. Top Trumps: Swap a pet hate activity with a colleague. My business partner used to tidy my ‘desk volcano’ while I did her expenses. She likes a tidy office, I like a nice Excel spreadsheet.

3. Frog-Swallowing: The theory is that if you swallow a frog first thing in the morning then everything else you have to do that day will seem pleasant by comparison. Do ten minutes of crap-sorting first thing each morning. Then smile, make a cup of tea, and do something you enjoy next. “At least we’ve taken that from the enemy” as my Grandma would say. And “The only way to eat an elephant, Pascale, is one spoonful at a time”.

4. Show Me The Money: Work out roughly what it would cost you to not do it. Get that money out in cash and tape it to your monitor. Look at it. Think what you’ll spend it on. Cocktails. Steak. A weekend in Amsterdam. Get on with the crap that’s coming between you and the money. Don’t hide behind “I’m too important/expensive/busy for this, I’ll pay someone else to do it” if it’s something you actually need to do. Eg sorting the accounts info by category: you know your accountant will just come back to you to ask you what half the items were, you’ll still have to do it and you’ll have paid the accountant for the pleasure of chasing you. Of course, delegate or outsource what will really save you time, but not something which you can do quicker yourself than giving the instruction, answering the queries and checking it’s been done right. That’s classic avoidance disguised as management.

5. Sorry, I’ve just got this urgent shiny new projec……………….

OK OK, you want number 5. Would I rip off a friend like you by 20%? I like you too much. And you obviously need my advice if you’re such a helpless procrastinator that you’re still reading this. So here it is:

5. Just Don’t Do It. Seriously. You’re perfectly within your rights to just not bother resizing that image or fixing that broken link. It’s quite possible your client won’t care either. Maybe ‘good enough’ really IS good enough for you and your business. You can choose whether or not to spend 15 minutes hunting down that £6 taxi receipt. 1324 emails in your inbox? Think: “This email does not have a constitutional right to be actioned, filed or even read.” Ctrl-A Delete is your friend here. If it’s so important they’ll email again. Or my favourite, The Shoe Box. Scoop it up, chuck it all in a box and label it “Random Stuff From Desk Volcano, Roughly April-May 2011. If It’s Nowhere Else, Look Here.” Also works with emails: “Inbox 2008”, “Inbox 2009” etc. Box it and forget it, if you really need it in future you’ll be able to find it.

Job done. Pass me that cold beer and a slice of cake!

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One Response to The Creative Entrepreneur’s 5 Top Tips: So What If You’re Not a Completer-Finisher?

  1. I should just add, for full disclosure, that Top Tip number 3 has never, ever worked for me.

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