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How Will You Know? Defining Done

We often say we are going to do something and then never seem to get it done. Or we don’t know that we completed it. Learn a weird but useful question to help you get over this.

There is a concept in agile software development called defining done. When working on software there is often a long list of tasks that need to get done. Features to implement. Bugs to fix. Things to make the software do.

Programmers dutifully look at this list and write code to do what it asks. Then they get a complaint that the new feature doesn’t do what it is supposed to or the bug isn’t really fixed. Then there are recriminations back and forth about the task and the work.

To fix this problem everyone now has to ask, “How will we know it is done?”

What are the specific measurable things that will tell us the task is complete.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize this happens in contexts other than computer programming.

In business we say, “I’m going to contact a bunch of people this week to promote my product.”

Then at the end of the week, we know we’ve contacted people, but did we do what we set out to? There is the feeling we didn’t do enough, or we did too much and it didn’t work.

But if we asked ourselves at the beginning, “how will I know I am done?”, we’d realize there need to be some measurable criteria to successfully finishing the task. Maybe we set a number we are going to contact. Or a number of people we convince to go to the next step in our sales funnel. That is a definition of done.

Sometimes this question leads you to a deeper understanding of what you want. For instance say you decide “I want to be more spiritual.”

Ask yourself, “How will I know I’m more spiritual?”

Mmmmm…interesting. You start having to define what spiritual is to you. Then ask what criteria do you use to know someone or yourself are spiritual. This can lead to a much deeper knowledge of what it is to be spiritual, or smart, or fit. Any aspect of character or personality that can be nebulous.

This works for things like productivity too. How many times has you said, “I want to be more productive?”

Well how will you know you are more productive? What does it mean to be productive? Is it just getting more things done on your todo list? Or is it getting the right things done on your todo list? Or even getting the right things on your todo list in the first place?

Trying to define done will give you a much clearer understanding of what you really want.

Which of course is what we do here at Distinctions For Life, help you get what you really want in life.

And know you have gotten it.

Question of the Day: How will you know you are done?

What are you trying to accomplish in life and how will you know when you have it? Leave a comment below.

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