Harnessing unfinished business

When he finished his writing for the day, Ernest Hemingway habitually stopped in the middle of an idea. This way, he would use this unfinished idea as a foothold to resume his writing the next morning.

Hemingway’s approach is counter-intuitive. In the grip of inspiration, he would stop himself rather than get to the end. Being able to do this requires enough confidence in one’s own ability. Besides, one ought to be in it for the long run.

This principle can be extended to several other facets where we take a long-term view.

While working on a big project, stop for the day when you are converging towards the solution to a problem. The next day, you can preserve your momentum by finishing the solution and plodding onwards.

When reading a difficult book, stop at a point where it is interesting, so that you return to it the next day.

In the grip of inspiration, it is often tempting to sprint right to the end. However, like a stretched out rubber-band, you can harness the tension of unfinished business to get off to a great start the next day.

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