Closure Can Be Overrated

Dr. John Townsend

February 1, 2020

Have you ever had a task you felt you just had to finish or it would drive you crazy, and you ended up being late to a meeting as a result?  It could be finishing a report,  making a brief phone call that’s been on your to-do list for awhile, or cleaning up the house before you leave, and that few minutes makes the rest of the day a bit rushed.

Most of us are very familiar with that experience.  It has some minor OCD components, and has to do with an overdeveloped need for closure that can make life a bit frantic and frustrating for us.  Simply put, closure is the act of bringing end to a matter, to reduce mental disorder.  It’s not fun to have lots of things hanging on unfinished in our heads, like strands of threads on a shirt.  So we tidy up.  However, when we get caught up in a “closure frenzy”, even if it’s a few minutes, it can make life harder.  We can be late to appointments, not feel good, and let people down we care about.  Here are some tips to balance out on closure.

Reduce your daily to-do list tasks.  Most to-do lists, whether on your app or a piece of paper, are about 50% too long.  We set them up because we are optimistic, but we end up feeling bad because we have to reschedule them and kick the can down the road.  Just put on your day what you actually have time for, between scheduled meetings.  Giving yourself a break here will decrease the need for premature closure.

Reflect on what is important.  At the beginning of your day, consider what really matters.  Think of the meaningful jobs and projects you are working on, and the people you care about, that you don’t want to be late for.  This sets your mind out of the “urgent” mode into the “important” mode.

Practice leaving things undone.  It strengthens our mind to walk away from unnecessary closure.  If you’re in the middle of something that is not truly an emergency, and you see by the time, that you need to get off your phone app or get away from your computer,  shut down and walk away or make the call, whatever is due next.  Be intentional about this, because this is practice.  You are likely to encounter anxious feelings and negative self-talk such as “I hate leaving this” or “Just a couple minutes more and I’ll be finished.”  But face the discomfort and remember that very successful people always have something undone.  It will get better over time.

 Be happy about the benefit.  What is the benefit?  Being on time and not rushing in apologizing, being relaxed, and being ready to tackle the next thing.

Closure is a great tool!  But it must serve your priorities, not determine them.  As I write this, I’m leaving some notes on my whiteboard that I’d love to finish and be done with, but I have a meeting I need to be on time to…☺



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