Let's talk about something important! PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN! Coffee's for closers only. Do you think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I'm here from downtown. And I'm here on a mission of mercy. Cause the good news is: you’re fired. The bad news is you've got just one week to regain your jobs, starting tonight. You got leads. Get their names to sell them! You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close shit, you ARE shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it cause you are going out! A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! ALWAYS BE CLOSING!! Oh, have I got your attention now?
Alec Baldwin sure was vocal about the importance of closing sales (make sure you watch that classic scene if you haven’t already). I will rely on his energy to advocate for a different type of closing: the secret of our peace of mind relies heavily on closing our stuff.
Let me explain myself. Anything we do, any activity we carry out can be split into: a) preparing, b) doing, c) closing. Take cooking. Ir requires preparation: take the recipe, gather the ingredients, take out the pans and kettles. Then you effectively cook the recipe–the act of doing. At this point we may consider the act of cooking finished but there is actually one last closing stage: clean up the leftovers and put out your cooking equipment to clean.
Closing our activities means leaving the campground cleaner than you found it, tying up loose ends, putting everything where it belongs. Organisation happens at the closing stage. Our peace of mind relies heavily on closing properly what we do.
Ritualised professional activities have effectively embedded the act closing in their procedures. A programmer doesn’t simply finish the code she’s written, stand up and leave. She will take that code, store it back to the code repository shared with her colleagues, and attach a comment that explains what she did (this is called checking in). In a small shop, well after the last client has left, the cash collected will be reconciled with the sales record. A restaurant cleans up equipment, tables, and tidy up the place before leaving. They don’t leave loose ends, they organise at the end so that next day, when they enter the room, they are ready to go.
But in our personal lives we are lousy closers. We focus heavily on doing and forget closing. We leave loose ends. Take a meeting. We go there, we discuss. Many of them simply finish, you stand up and leave (you will go through your notes later, leaving loose ends.) In some cases, someone takes the task of sending the minutes later: loose end. In the best cases, the attendees jointly wrap it up discussing agreements, actions, who does what. 100% of the meetings should be like this. 100% of 1 hour meetings should finish in 45 minutes, leaving the last 15 minutes to close. Are all your meetings like this? Do you save by design 25% of the time of anything you do to close? When you decide to work on a draft of a report, do you squeeze every minute available in writing the report, or do you leave time at the end to properly store the draft and leave a note to yourself with the ideas you need to tackle next?
We don’t close. We leave loose ends. The stock of loose ends then needs to get managed. Managing that stock requires systems and processes. It requires that to do list manager, it requires the GTD method, or the Agile Results method, or the Zen to Done method. There’s a whole industry devoted to managing the stock of loose ends. I know it very well. I’m a junkie actually. Traditional car production management dealt heavily with stock management. What is the right level of stock? What is the optimum replenishment frequency and quantity? For a long time, competing meant having a smarter stock management system. Guess what? The trick was getting rid of the stock all along. Managing stock does not produce cars. Spending time on it is not spending time producing cars. Likewise, spending time organising notes and tasks is not spending time selling, or coding, or hiring, or designing. We must organise as part of the task. We have a meeting and right there we recap. We list all follow up actions. Those that can be done in less than 2 min we do them right there. Those that must be delegated we delegate them right there. Those whose execution will take longer and we will have to deal with them later, we curse, we spit on the floor, and we put them in our to do list (yes, you still need that app, but let’s try to minimise its use.)
The benefit of closing is that you organize as you go. Everything that you've left for later organization is a dead weight on your soul. The more weight you carry, the less effective you are, the more overwhelmed you feel. If you don't deal with those weights sooner or later you collapse. The symptom that you're carrying too much weight is that you feel the urge to sit down and write down a list of all pending things. We've all been there. Making the list creates an immediate relief. When you don't close things, they occupy a space in the back of your mind. That way, you cannot really BE fully present on anything. Those dead weights scream for attention from the back of your mind. That is why you are not really listening to the people around you. Closing frees up headspace, brings peace, allows you to BE there. Your cluttered house is a sign of unclosed activities. If you had closed the meal properly, you wouldn't have the dishes lying in the sink. If you had closed your working day properly, your jacket wouldn't be on the back of that chair. Closing properly brings the type of joy that a clean and tidy home provides, as opposed to a cluttered, messy environment.
You may think that you are a good closer but you are not. The first thing you need to do is be aware of this fact. Impose the discipline of self analyzing: what am I doing now? Does this need closing? You bet. Do it now. What are you doing? You are reading this post. Do you thing reading this post finishes when you close the window? Absolutely not. When you finish reading this post you take a deep breath. You consider if this is something you can benefit from. You realize today is Friday. You realize Friday is a good day to close the week. You open your calendar and book 45 min this evening or afternoon with yourself and name it Week Closure. In the notes you write: review notes, do anything that takes less than 2 min, write down pending actions, review next weeks meetings, book slots to do whatever you feel you need to do. You come back to this post. You click Like. You click Share. You share this on Twitter or Facebook with the comment "Good advice!". Then this evening leave and BE with your family.
Just remember: coffee is for closer only. So