An easy-to-prepare 3-bean salad is my favourite standby vegetable combo. Preparing this salad requires simmering a cup of water with white vinegar for five minutes; opening, rinsing, and draining three cans of beans — pinto, black beans, and green beans are my typical choice; chopping in half an onion, pouring the hot brine over the mixture and letting it marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
Yet for two weeks just the thought of chopping half an onion has held me back.
Follow-through enables a golfer to drive his ball farther and more accurately. Follow-through helps the rest of us complete tasks big and small before we lose momentum.
Sidetracking my follow-through is far too easy. Any small excuse can deter me. An overnight rain resulting in a damp truck box kept me from loading a winter’s worth of recycling and delivering it to the depot. Who, I reasoned, would want to receive plastic bags wet on the outside, or damp cardboard boxes weighted with glass jars threatening to burst and smash on the ground?
Equally silly, after hours of sorting, laundering, folding and bagging useful clothing, weeks crept by before I loaded the five bags into the truck and delivered them to Ksan House. Why the delay? I didn’t know their driveway. I worried I might park stupidly while I delivered my contribution. As it happened, their driveway is paved and curves back on to the street, a piece of cake even for a nervous driver like me.
Forgetfulness may contribute to some folks’ failure to follow through. That’s not my case. To avoid forgetting, I keep a 3×5 notebook on my kitchen counter where I note anything I should do, from scissoring a leather place mat to protect the vinyl tablecloth from my bowl of microwaved oatmeal, to carpentering two corner braces for my piano bench.
Sometimes weather holds me back. Not for cutting a circle of leather; that’s an indoor job. But notching lumber to brace the piano bench entails hunting through the backyard scrap lumber pile for a suitable 2×4. The piano bench has been on my list since March 6. The bench repair gives me plenty to worry about — cutting the notches square, the exact length, so the 2×4 block will snugly fit and support the bench seat on the spindly legs, and not splitting the antique wood with screws.
Failure to follow-through can also result from overcommitting ourselves, running out of time and energy. Sometimes we really don’t want to do something.
We can navigate around our follow-through failures in several ways: by delegating the task to someone more qualified, like a tradesperson, or someone with more free time; or by keeping good notes that give us the springboard we need, such as organized filing for income tax time. If all else fails, and a task you felt needed doing is still not done months later, own up to not really wanting or needing to do the task, and cross it off your list.
Few things are more satisfying than crossing off a completed task. The momentum of doing so can fuel your enthusiasm for tackling the next job you’ve assigned ourself.
When a job on my to-do list carries forward for months, I weigh its necessity. If it seems now to be non-essential, I exuberantly scratch it out. If it pops up again in a few months, then maybe it needs doing. In the meantime, my conscience is unburdened and I’m saving note paper.
Some people were born with follow-through – the cook who makes a five-course holiday meal, but before the guests have moved to the living room for coffee her kitchen is tidy, every utensil washed, dried, and put back on its respective cupboard shelf. Or the gardener who harvests his summer crop and immediately hauls all dead foliage to the compost pile instead of heaping it in a fence corner till spring.
I envy their hop-to-it drive and commitment to a task.