I Am Done: How to Finish Everything You Start, and Then Some

If you have been inside any of my training courses you probably see the phrase "I am done" showing up a lot in the comments, especially in the "Challenge" posts.

Whenever you teach somebody something, it is in both your best interests that they go ahead and complete that task - isn't it?  It is one thing to get people to PROMISE to complete something; but it is just as important that they come back and tell you when that has been finished.

And that is why, when I offer membership challenges, I always tell people to come back and post "I am done" in the comments. That way I can easily do a search and figure out who has finished and who hasn't.

So How Do You Know That You Are Done?

And how do you make sure that you finish as many things as possible?  First off, only focus on one project at a time.  You might have to change your thinking.  I know that for a long time I had many different projects going. When I was finished High School, I was taking AP Tests, going to school, working on a long-term programming project, creating products of my own, and writing my own books.  I had about five or six projects going on at the same time - and I had to switch gears so often that I hardly got anything done!

If I had spent just one week finishing the book I was working on, I wouldn't have to think about it ever again.  If I had then turned my efforts to finishing the script I was working on, the program, I'd be done!  If I then focused all my effort on the large project, I'd be done!

So don't leave things unfinished because you underestimate how much effort it takes to switch between tasks.

Also, set a deadline for everything you do. You know yourself; you know how long something is going to take you based on how focused you are on it.  If you have to record a set of five videos, and you know you can only record one video a day, it will take you exactly five days - and that becomes your deadline.

It is important, though, to have not just a DATE-based deadline, but a TIME-based deadline as well. Don't say something is going to be finished "next week"; tell me it is going to be finished "next week, Wednesday, at exactly 4.30pm."

And to make sure that you HIT your headlines, keep what you have shippable, so that you can be done at any time.  This means that when you are recording that video course, if you can get away with only having three videos, and that is Version 1 of your course; and Version 2 contains five videos, then you can meet that deadline without having to stress about it.  You could launch the product with just three videos instead of five, if you had to.

And finally...

Don't Tell People Everything You Know!

Look at the way Apple launches new items versus the way Microsoft does: Microsoft announces things years in advance and always misses their deadline; while Apple keeps their new stuff secret until it is perfected and it's ready to go.

You don't have to announce every single thing you are going to launch because you might not end up launching all of them - and then you appear to be unreliable and a joke!

Those are the ways you are going to get more stuff accomplished in less time:  By only having one project at a time and finishing what you start; having a time-based deadline; keeping it shippable - and don't announce everything you know.

What is your best productivity tip to get your tasks finished? Leave me a comment below telling me right now.

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  1. Britt Malka says:

    My best productivity tip is to use a combination of old fashioned paper, and electronics.

    I use a calendar, in which I write 1-3 task per day.

    I back that up with Evernote, where I go into detail with each project. I copy and paste URL’s for articles, I make a note, when I have bookmarked them, pinged them, etc. And I keep track of all my tasks in there, so I always know what to do next, and when

    I’m done 🙂

  2. Robert Plank says:


    So if I’m understanding this right, you write your task list onto a physical (paper) calendar, and then retype them into EverNote? Why do the work twice?

  3. Dane Morgan says:

    I need to read this a few more times and convince myself. I know that one of my biggest problems in all areas of my life is over commitment and over extension, I’m always trying to do several things at once.

    I might come back and read this post every day for a month. 😉

  4. I am glad you mentioned the example of Apple because I have also been guilty of setting many ships into the sea – but they rarely ever reach the other shore. At some point, a new project becomes boring once it gets tedious.

    I love writting the e-book, but hate writing the sales letter, and using Apple as an example gives a fair impression that I should begin outsourcing the tedious elements and focus on my best areas.

    That way many more projects can be completed.

    Reaching a time and date is rarely ever a problem. When I know it’s time to get to work I can complete in a very short time.

    Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  5. Robert Plank says:


    Can you write the sales letter first? I usually write the “draft” sales letter, make the product, and then go back and make the sales letter match the product exactly. That way the first thing I make is the sales letter, because I’m still excited, and it saves me having to make a table of contents.

    Can you dictate the sales letter out or pay someone else to interview you and make a sales page out of that?

  6. Ron Barrett says:

    As of right now I don’t have ‘a’ best productivity tip. I am still guilty of having too many irons in the fire and sometimes being overwhelmed with ‘where do I start/continue’.

    I do like the ‘I Am Done’ part of your sites… creates motivation… I’m still a procrastinator and probably will be until I figure out how to overcome it…

    Looking forward to tomorrow…

  7. Jesus Perez says:

    My secret: The Action Machine. That app kicks my butt into full productivity mode.

  8. Robert Plank says:


    How long have you consistently been using Action Machine? I used to use it but after a few weeks it started getting in the way. Do you use it just for the timers or do you go all-out and generate the reports too?

  9. Sally K says:

    An old-fashioned timer works for me. I do much better when I choose 1-3 tasks, decide on a reasonable time, then set the timer.

    If I finish early (often) then I go around again. If not, regroup when it goes off.

  10. Robert Plank says:


    Awesome, that’s what I like to hear. Although, at some point I got tired of the timer sitting on my desk so I threw it out and started using Cool Timer instead.

    Just the fact that the timer is ticking down is a huge help, for example if I want to knock out 10 articles I’ll set the timer for an hour which makes me continue without stopping or slowing down until I’m done.

  11. Dave Doolin says:

    Switching contexts is hard. Really hard. I’m learning how to master it.

    The reason is that I don’t know how long some of the projects I’m working on are going to take. Example: coding iPhone/iPad apps. It’s open-ended right now.

    The key I have found is doing exactly what you say for projects where I can see the steps required, and having a process for switching gears. So I can work on the open-ended stuff for, say, 1 hour per day. Works awesome.

    I’ve gotten the gear switching mastered to the point of being able to comfortably handle 3, sometimes 4 different contexts.

    Note: I *have* to do this, because my work is all “flat” to me. For example, paying bills, etc. is one of these contexts. Being able to switch in and out of it rapidly is critical.

    FWIW I use Georges Cuvier as a model, just wish I had the damn castle too!

    And this doesn’t take away from anything you say or promote here, for me it enhances it. But I don’t recommend it for anyone who does have trouble getting stuff done right now.

  12. Dennis Wagoner says:

    Cool Timer works for me also.

    The thing I do is set the timer for how long I think it will take to complete a task. If I miss the deadline, I reset and push for 25% of the original time to get it done.

    In most cases I get done within the alloted time. Funny thing is as you begin to learn exactly how long it will take you to get X task finished, you also begin to shorten the time it takes.

    Being truly aware of what you’re capable of when you focus is very empowering. In turn, it can drive you to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.

  13. Betty Walker says:

    Robert – how on earth does anyone who runs their own business only work on one thing at a time?!

  14. Robert Plank says:


    Not sure how to answer that… self control? Making it a point not to check email every day knowing it will only distract you?

  15. Britt Malka says:


    No, I only write they keywords in my physical calendar, like, e.g.


    Since I do this daily, I know what I’m referring to here, and in Evernote, I have both the bigger lines and the details, since I make a project with notes attached.

    A project could be a challenge, or the name of an e-book, I’m testing. Then I would name the project after the challenge, or the e-book.

    If I was working after the Mini-Site Formula, I would make a new project with that name, and in my calendar, I would write: watch videos, do keyword research, buy domain on day 1.

    In Evernote, I would specify the keyword results, I would write down the keywords, I’ve found, and I would write down the name of the domain.

    So in fact, I use the calendar as a form of a daily outline, and Evernote to keep track of everything from, all down to the details.

    Thanks for the tip about the Pomodoro – oh, not quite true, in fact. You wrote about another timer, and since I’m on a Mac, I searched for alternatives, and found the Pomodoro and the Pomodoro Techinique.

  16. Jeff Bode says:

    Best productivity tip (besides the ones mentioned) taking a short break away from the computer after 45 to 90 minutes.

    I tend to loose focus and go off doing non productive things when I don’t take breaks.

  17. Robert Plank says:

    What do you go and do on those breaks, Jeff?

  18. My very best tip, I learned from you and Lance. Every day I have 4 priorities and I do those first. If I am feeling ambitious I will keep going after the 4, but if I do those 4 things, no matter what else happens, I’ll feel like I had a productive and successful day!

    I do struggle with over committing and find it a real challenge at times not to do more then one thing. To solve that… and this is just what works for me. I now allow myself a 10-20 minute break between my 4 priority tasks and I let myself play off topic. I’ll check email or I’ll update social media or just sit in creative silence and let my ideas flow. (creative silence includes a notebook of course).

    I really like your blog and the topics you bring up always seem to be a smash hit with everyone!! keep up the fun and good work!!

  19. Robert Plank says:

    What can I say Helen, I’m just a smash hit with everyone whereever I go, no matter what I say. 🙂

  20. My tip isn’t going to add anything new here, since it’s pretty much exactly what you said in your post – focus on one project at a time.

    I’ve had a bunch of stuff on my plate for as long as I can remember, and I never seemed to get through it all. Since I started focusing on one thing at a time, I get through it faster and it’s usually more successful.

    It’s still a bit of a battle sometimes – I have to stop myself from trying something new or building a new site every once in a while. In fact, I signed up for Membership Cube, with plans for a new project I was going to start.

    I picked up your Time Management on Crack product shortly after, to learn how you write articles so quickly. And it gave me a kick in the butt to refocus, so I canceled Membership Cube for now.

    So thanks for the great advice, but you realize it might be costing you money 😉

  21. Robert Plank says:


    No big deal, you’ll be back in M3 once TMOC gets you to write more content than you know what to do with, and you realize it’s easier to stick it into a sequential membership site with levels than handle a big mess of download pages everywhere.

    I’ll get a better testimonial out of you too, after you finish Membership Cube because you’ll be focused enough to actually FINISH those membership sites you create.

  22. Clyde Reid says:

    Lance set me straight on my biggest problem some time back and I suppose his advice and explaination has to be my biggest productivity tip and of course it is exactly what you have said as well.

    I always thought I needed to multi task as an offline business owner and aspiring online millionaire. I made the statement “I really need to learn to multi task but I seem to be a DOS kind of person and not Windows” to Lance one day. His response helped more than anything I had heard or read prior to that day. Leter, while looking back on some notes I realized you, as well as others had said the same thing to me in the past only in different words. I suppose I was just not ready to hear it at the time. Here is what Lance said. No one can multi task successfully, not even your Windows computer. The computer only does one thing at a time but it is done so fast it appears to be doing more than one thing.

    When the truth of that statement hit me I started setting priorities and scheduling things to finish one at a time. I still have problems with life getting in the way or my offline business eating up some of my time but I am working it out.

    Short version. Focus on one thing until it is finished then go on to something else. That is the best way I know to get things done.


  23. Robert Plank says:


    Yep, here’s where I said it: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Many-Projects-Should-I-Be-Working-on-at-a-Time?&id=1856610 … I also said something similar inside Time Management on Crack.

    It was tough for me to get it down to 1 project too. But I got it down to 5, then 3, and then down to just the one thing. Sure it feels like you might be missing out by not having a bunch of balls in the air, but that feeling is you being productive instead of just busy.

  24. Carole says:

    I still use plain old pen and paper. I hand write 3-4 things I want to accomplish that day. I read somewhere that actually handwriting your goals was more effective – it triggers something in the brain.

    I have this piece of paper in front of me all day. Out of site – out of mind.

    Then there is the personal satisfaction, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing things off the list.

    I’m also like Jeff. I work in little chunks of time. I tend to be sort of A.D.D. and can only focus for a short time. Then I take the dog down to the water, clear my head, and come in and start again. Working patterns are different for everyone and you have to find your own strengths and limitations and work within those.

  25. Warren says:

    Hi Robert,

    I have been trying to keep to the Four things a Day approach from Time Management on Crack. It has helped me make progress.

    But you hit the nail on the head with this post. Finishing is a difficult thing to do. Especially when you are comparing your product to those of Multi Billion dollar corporations.

    I am slowly but surely finishing recording web content with a less polished but no less valuable product. For me the biggest barrier to “one take” recording is stopping every time I make a mistake. But I know, I didn’t do that when I was out on the road making presentations. I would stumble and push on through. This is a tough thing to give up in recording.

    Thanks again.


  26. wal gifford says:

    Doing 4 things per day, and I learn’t that from you!

    Switching between tasks looses momentum, and wastes alot of time and dilutes one’s focus.

  27. Betty Walker says:


    “No one can multi task successfully, not even your Windows computer” – this is certainly a good way of putting it – thx to Lance for that. As a programmer, this is something I can relate to, and it may help me put it into perspective. And, Robert – I’ll read your referred article also to get more insights.

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one that has struggled with time management, and Robert – knowing that you also struggled to whittle it down to one task at a time is encouraging.

    It’s all a process – a work in progress, I suppose.

  28. Robert,

    You have shone a light on the secret of getting things done effectively. We are all guilty of attempting to “multi-task” our way through the day. Psychological research has clearly shown that we are fooling ourselves-our brains are not built to handle multiple tasks.

    Along with your sage advice to limit (severely for many of us, including me) the number of projects we are managing, your comments on “finishing” are excellent.

    In addition to kidding ourselves about juggling too much, far too often we are held back by attempting to create the “perfect product.” Good enough is good enough. Or, as it was stated by another IM’er “Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly at first.” There is always room for a second edition!

    Keep moving us forward in our progress toward IM nirvana.

  29. Hey Robert,
    the idea of having a mentor, whether he knows it or not is immaterial, is my best productivity trick coupled with the accountability blog with its 4 items a day.

    And one of your subheads in this post “Don’t Tell People Everything You Know!” just saved my a** big time today.

    Now, I know that you sending unwanted emails straight into archives is one of your favorites, but unfortunately my support requests go there to: I have been asking you for support with a product a bought… to no response… sigh

  30. Robert Plank says:

    And one of your subheads in this post “Don’t Tell People Everything You Know!” just saved my a** big time today.

    I have a whole blog post about that coming up on the 11th explaining who taught me that saying.

    I have been asking you for support with a product a bought… to no response… sigh


  31. Vlad says:

    My favorite productivity tip is to decide in 60 seconds (or less) on what to do next. Learned from David Allen

  32. Robert Plank says:


    Good advice but I make most of my decisions in 6 seconds instead.

  33. Karen says:

    A timer helps me best. I have to set it to do work, then I have to set it to take a break. Otherwise I just keep working.

    On the other hand, I can get a whole lot done between midnight and 5 am for no reason I can ascertain, and I’m not on a timer then. I get lost in writing, look up and discover it’s dawn. Would a timer interrupt my thoughts? Or make me focus better? I don’t know.

    Time to experiment! Thanks for your posts. Always some new angle to consider.

  34. My best productivity comes when I’m 100% focused on ONE project. I can work 12-15 hours on that one project – as long as I don’t take my eyes off the goal. If I start dinking around with email, checking the latest “offer” email or exploring a new tool – it really cuts my production.

    So far I’m not able to get to the four goals a day because my goals tend to vary in size (one day to 10 minutes), so I need to get better at portions. (double entendre intended)

    The one thing that I turn to over and over is checklists – I have checklists for most of my major project types. So as I’m working on my one project, I pull out the checklist and go down it. It makes it MUCH faster to actually crank out the work. And that way I have confidence that I haven’t left anything out, because I’ve used this checklist before and it worked.

    As for multi-tasking…I think we all think we need to. There’s that customer support ticket that DOES need to be taken care of in 24 hours (that our support staff couldn’t answer), there’s that expiring offer, there’s a newsletter to get out, etc. The longer you’ve been in business the more of these misc tasks you have.

    And I can just hear Robert now…sit down for ONE day and write all of your newsletter for the month. Then that’s no longer a distraction. And I’m sure he has other sage advice as well!


    P.S. Robert – I LOVE the way you add reading time at the top of each blog post. Do you calculate that based on number of words or another way?

  35. Robert Plank says:


    The blog reading time plugin is called “estimated reading time” … it calculates it automatically.

    One thing I like about doing checklists is I create a whole membership site on that subject and put the checklist… that way I don’t have to save it in folders or Word documents anywhere, it’s inside the searchable membership site.

  36. I use a trick I learned from late copywriter Eugene Schwartz. I have a stopwatch and I work for 33 minutes and 33 seconds. Then I take a 5 minute break, even if I’m in the middle of something. Then I come back and do another 33:33 for however long I want to work that day. I tend to only work on one project at a time, and I confine checking and responding to email into the break periods. The only thing I’m allowed to do in the 33:33 is produce. No thinking, no research, just typing (I write for a living). Everything else happens in the 5 minute gaps in my own time.

    I’m not saying I’m the most productive person in the world, but that advice has served me well. Gotta go. My 5 minutes is up.

  37. I often times look around and think… what’s happened here… everything is a mess? Then I realize I have not finished “cycles.” Everything I started has been left open ended. Sometimes it takes a day to close all the open ended cycles. When I do.. I feel so much better.

    My secret is to be aware and set realistic daily goals for myself. When I do…I finish what I start. Sure help to keep my mind from becoming cluttered as well as my desk.

  38. Robert. Excellent idea about writing the sales letter first. Thanks for that idea. That might be very inspiring. 🙂

  39. Christine says:

    Limit all distractions, is my best tip. Email is off. Phone ringer is off. Cell phone is off. My home office door is shut and my family has strict instructions that when the door is closed, nobody interrupts me; unless someone is dying.

    I’m a member of TMOC and your strategies are full of common sense and they work. I’m using the 4 tasks/day, which makes it so much easier to focus than seeing a list of 100 items, or worse, multiple lists of lots of items.

    It also helps to dedicate a week, or several days in succession, to one project/focus, so each task is building on the last one, and then, voila! I’m done.

    Thanks, Robert.


  40. Nancy Boyd says:

    This is going to put me squarely in the Luddite category I’m sure, but I re-use the back side of printer paper that was going to be recycled anyway, fold it in half, and every Sunday night I write the top things that have to get done with my projects. (If I have appointments, I put that in, too, so I don’t forget.)

    That’s my weekly to-do list, with only the important stuff on it.

    Then each night one of the last things I do is to write out the top 4 things I have to do the next day. What that does is let me go to sleep without worrying about it, and prepare me psychologically for doing it. I wake up each day excited and eager to get started on it.

    For a while I didn’t realize what a visual person I am, until I started putting what I have to do each day in front of me where I can see it. I check each thing off as it’s done — and when there is time left after that, it feels like a “bonus” and even more fun.

    Don’t know if that would work for everyone, but it works for me (that is, unless I forget to write it down. . . )

    I like your concept of “I’m done” — similar to checking it off the list. Acknowledging accomplishment is important 🙂

  41. I have NO problem whatsoever focusing on one project at a time. As a matter of fact, that’s all I prefer to handle. I figured that out about 30 years ago. I’m a big fan of “Sensibility” and “Sanity”.

    However, while working on just one project, you can easily encounter distractions and a boat load of interruptions (especially if you have children).

    So my productivity tips …

    * If you have small children, get a babysitter, friend, or relative to watch them while you work.

    * If you have older children, post a sign on your door that reads, “Unless the house is on fire or you have a true medical emergency, please don’t open this door until ….”

    * If you’re a morning person, work in the morning

    * If you’re a night owl, do your work at night

    * Only check your emails twice a day

    * Outsource anything you hate doing yourself


  42. I am done …BEing Scattered! Great post! The last two days I have had too many things on my plate. Time to focus on one thing and “get ‘er done.”

    I have a small book to write…I will start tomorrow and be finished by Monday PM (with Sunday off) Thanks!

    My best, Ann Schilling

  43. So, I guess this makes it official: Multitasking is overrated.

    It’s better to get a few things finished than get just a little bit done on a while lot of things.


  44. Dave Doolin says:

    If you put in threaded comments, I bet you could crack 200 comments easy on these articles.

    Try it. See what happens.

  45. Robert Plank says:

    I hate the way threaded comments look though.

  46. Great discussion! Lots of good tips here. I usually have 3 “musts” on my list for each day and push myself to get them done first.
    I also do a special review on Fridays to block out the week ahead so I plug into my calendar time for appts but also for important writing projects. Otherwise all the “stuff” on my desk eats up all my creative time and the day vanishes without my paying attention to my top priority which is writing books, articles and screenplays.
    Nice to see I’m not alone in the ongoing challenge of juggling time vs projects!
    Evelyn 🙂

  47. Robert, I need action comments v. 1.93… the previous version isn’t working on one of my blogs…

    I know this is not the right forum, but you’ve been ignoring my emails, or sending them to archive directly… who knows.

  48. I have the same problem as most people – too many things on my plate and too many distractions.

    So I have started writing down a list of things I want to accomplish for the day. I take a break about every 45 minutes and do nothing related to business; no tweeting or checking email.

    If I am unable to accomplish everything I wanted, the task(s) get move to the first thing the next day. When I am feeling burned out, I quit for the day and check email and tweet.

  49. Robert – this is one of the most important things I learned from you – even though I learned a tremendous amount from all of your courses.

    I have so many interruptions at work that I can really recognize how important this focusing tactic actually is.

    You are the best!!


  50. John Bruin says:

    The timing of this article is perfect. I sat down last night and developed a weekly to do list broken down by day and specific tasks.

    I really like you suggestion to set a time deadline for on going projects. I have a book that I’m writing now and I really need to just get it knocked out. Your suggestion will make all the difference.

  51. Rob says:


    What a great post I think that I will start using this montra today. Thanks Rob


  52. I have been very bad at completing things. From the comments above, I will set 3-4 goals per day, and work on one thing at a time. I think I will use a timer also.

  53. Today’s priority is SURVIVE! Just one. That’s it.
    Read my blog tonight for details.

  54. Hi Robert
    I have heard about your system for writing down 4 items the night before. Sometimes I do that but not lately. As school is restarting I will it it up again.

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