Watching the new series of Mastermind recently and hearing the immortal line “I’ve started so I’ll finish” started me thinking about how I manage and plan my work and wishing it was starting, getting on with it and then finishing.

But to say that’s what I do would be an enormous lie.

It’s much more the plate spinner approach. Get one thing started, then nudge something else forwards, then another, and another, and then go back to number 1 and start again. The length of cycle being very much dependent on how many projects (plates) I’m spinning at any one time.

Add in, a busy home and various life projects that need sorting to the mix, and it can feel like I am constantly iterating, and I hate myself for it. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely do complete tasks in a timely fashion but almost never in one sitting.

The gremlin on my shoulder is always telling me I should focus on one thing. Do that thing from start to finish and then move on. That’s what normal people do. They start a task and then they complete it. Why can’t you be normal?

I’ve spent years beating myself up about my inability to work in this way. The last few weeks have been a case in point. I’ve a number of projects which all have imminent deadlines whether they be interim reports for clients, tender deadlines or upcoming events. And I’ve found myself circling round and round through each one and feeling cross with myself that I can’t seem to finish any one of them.

Over the recent Easter weekend I started wondering is starting so you’ll finish really normal? Or have I been deceiving myself all this time?

I was reminded of Tuckman’s stages of group development where he proposed that when groups come together, they go through specific phases.

They come together initially (forming) and acquainting themselves with each other. Then they all challenge each other and often there is some falling out (storming). They then work through this and resolve their differences (norming) so that they can move into the performing stage and what they achieve is far greater by dint of the process they’ve been through.

And I started to wonder is it a version of this that I go through by myself as I run my freelance career?

I know that time spent away from projects allows my subconscious to ruminate (forming). I’ll throw the idea around in my head (storming) as I run some errands which will join a few dots up (forming). Then when I come back to that project, I will have renewed vigour and an updated point of view to move it forwards (performing). Instinctively, I know the work is always better for this piecemeal approach.

So why do I beat myself up about this way of working? I know it works because clients come back for more. I make it all happen (by hook or by crook). I deliver the work to the deadlines.

I’ve realised that I beat myself up because working this way also drives me nuts. And it struck me this weekend why this is.

It’s because nothing ever feels finished.

My to do list is always as-long-as my arm and all I want to do is complete something and tick it off. But all I’m feeling is a sense of Groundhog Day.

So my challenge now is to lean into this and accept it. Realise that I can’t fight it and that it does serve me well. And for me it will always be a case of

I’ve started … so I’ll move onto something else now.