October can be a depressing month.  Summer is gone, the weather is getting cold and damp.  You’re facing the last quarter of the year, and for most of us it’s a time where all you can see is all the projects you haven’t gotten done.

I was going through the list of projects I completed this year.  It was a large list.  I should have been pleased, but I wasn’t.  In fact, I felt vaguely dissatisfied.  I couldn’t figure out why.  Then I remembered a phrase my father used to say when we worked together.

“The job isn’t done until you put away your tools.”

The thought surprised me.  Of course, I had put them away.  Most of my projects were done months ago.  But, I went back to check…

And discovered much to my surprise that while I had physically put away the items I was working with, I hadn’t done so mentally.

First, was the case of the sliding doors.  I’d neatly trimmed them because they were binding on the carpet in the summer.  I had deliberately not reattached the floor guides to make sure that no further trimming would be necessary.  No further trimming was needed, but the floor guides still hadn’t gone back down.

Next, came the music CD’s I moved to my laptop.  I transferred all the standard ones.  The rest were from local bands and not on the ASCAP or BMI lists.  They were gathering dust on a separate shelf.

Most recently, I did a massive cleanup on my garage.  I swept, I painted, I took junk to the dump, I took good items I would never use to charity.  When I finished, I congratulated myself.  Only now, I noticed a vague sense of incompleteness.  I went downstairs to check.  Up on the ceiling was a plug for the garage door opener.  It had no cover.  It never had one, even when we bought the house.  However, when I painted the ceiling I noticed the cover was missing and made a mental note to replace it…

And I still hadn’t.

For most of us, when we start a project we set a goal.  Sometimes we’ve a “look” in mind. It’s complete when I’ve done “X”.

The problem is, we see something while working, some little thing, that also needs doing.  We mentally add it to the list.  But we are busy.  We forget.  We finish the rest of the project and the little thing slips by.  We put away our tools.

But, in the back of our minds, the job’s incomplete.  We put away our tools too soon.

A few days later we might notice the little thing and say, “Oh yeah, I need to get that done.”  It’s not a big thing; it’s not critical.  At least it’s not to our objective, rational mind.

Unfortunately, our emotional hindbrain doesn’t listen to the calm rational piece the way we would like it to.  Instead, it screams dissatisfaction in the moments when the weather is lousy.  It screams when we are having trouble getting to sleep.  It screams when we are down with a cold.  It screams at us every time we walk by the very job we should be feeling good about.  It makes us depressed and vaguely dissatisfied with our lives and our accomplishments.

Fortunately, there’s a cure.

Take some time and review your successes.  Congratulate yourself for them, again.  And see if there are any nagging little pieces you meant to do and forgot.

And do them.

If you’re like me they won’t be big, and they won’t take long.  Nevertheless, you see them, out of the corner of your eye every day.  When they’re done – THEN you can put your tools away…

And realize you finally finished the job.

I like to think of October as cleanup month.  For me it starts out depressing.  But as I clean up all those little items that are nagging me, I find that I feel more and more successful.  Usually, I take a day to identify the cleanup items.  I allow a week to get them all off my plate.  That fires me up to go after any big end of year projects I’ve been waiting on.

I hope it does the same for you.  And, always remember…

“The jobs not done until you put your tools away.”  (Physically and mentally)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an electrical cover plate to put up on the garage ceiling…

Have a great day.

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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