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114 Key Principles for Success

Principle 16 - Finish Then Add Details

Are you overwhelmed? Do you have too much to do? You're probably not finishing what you start. If you have trouble finishing tasks and would like to accomplish more, "Finish Then Add Details" or FTAD. I pronounce it "ef-tad."

When you work on a task you should strive to finish it and then add details to the finished product. When I say "Finished," I mean in a sellable or distributable condition. That means no spelling, grammatical errors, no bad links. This can apply to any undertaking. Finish the job so you can hand it out, sell, perform or publish it as soon as possible.

It is the opposite of "Add Details Then Finish" or ADTF. The problem with ADTF is that you might never finish what you're working on, especially if you're a perfectionist. Your task is always incomplete as you keep adding details and leave your project in an unfinished state. Since it's incomplete you don't have to show it to anyone. You'll do that when it's complete. You avoid having your work criticized. But without the critiques, you can't improve it.

If you rush to meet deadlines, you probably did not FTAD your work. A good way to put this into action is to set a time and a size limit for your task. One hour, one page, one day, one week or whatever you can use to create a useful product or deliverable. The shorter the time you give yourself, the more you'll get done. Get that egg timer out and get to work. You'll be done before you know it.

Where does FTAD come from?

The FTAD method comes from the software industry's "daily build." The goal of a daily build is to have working software available each day. A "build" of a software product is the combining of software from multiple sources then getting it to work. Many companies will fix bugs and then "check in" their changes. A separate group then runs tests on the software. If the software passes all the tests it becomes a release. If a test fails, the developers must fix the problems and the build process is rerun. You always have software that works and has the latest important features. Each day the users can see progress. If the current build doesn't work properly the previous one can still be used.

Get your users to try your product

Another part of the FTAD methodology is to get your users, clients, and customers using the product as soon as possible. This is usually called an alpha or beta version. Quite often, they will find problems that you couldn't possibly identify due to the Curse of Knowledge. This helps you improve the product as quickly as possible through their feedback. Always try to get someone to proofread or test your product. Because of human nature, it will always be easier for them to find problems than for you. Never fight with them on what their opinion is even if you don't agree with it. Your goal is to get feedback not agreement.

How can you use FTAD?

If you are a juggler, create a juggling routine to perform. This allows you to perform a routine at any time. Use the FTAD method to create it. Create a simple routine and practice it until you're perfect at it. You can perform the routine whenever called for. You should also have a new routine that you're working on. It should be the same as the previous routine but with one more juggling trick in it. When you've mastered the new routine it becomes your main one. Now add a move to create a better routine. This applies to playing music, performing magic, telling jokes, or even talking about your job or business. Always have a finished product that's ready.

Presentations and Demos

If you're preparing for a presentation or demo, create the smallest one that will be useful and then build from it. This way you'll always have a finished product. If you're giving a large demo, create small complete pieces of your demo and then put them together to complete the entire demo.

Writing Articles

If you write articles, try to write a paragraph on your subject, and then try to get to a page in length. When you reach one page, stop and finish it by getting others to review your work.


If your business doesn't have a website, then create the simplest website that you can and put it up on the internet. Don't wait for perfection. It will never come. Don't have "Under Construction", blank pages, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or links that don't go anywhere. Your product looks sloppy and unfinished.

Messy Desk

If your desk is a mess, throw the papers in a box and label it with the date. Go through the box when you have spare time or if you need something you've put in it. You've finished cleaning your desk and can worry about the details later.

Writing a Book

If you're writing a book that's hard to finish, try to complete an article that could be a chapter in your book. Use the FTAD method to complete the article and then continue creating articles working on the most important ones first. Once you have enough articles, create your book and call it for example, "Top 17 Ways of Building Widgets." Of course, if you have five articles you'd change the title. The book can be finished when you have enough pages to qualify as a book which is 49. Prioritize the order of the chapters so that you complete the most important ones first. Your book will always be ready.


If there is a task you've been procrastinating, then break the task into five to nine separate tasks. Finish each one using FTAD and then combine the tasks and your overall task is done. When finishing each task you're looking to complete it in the fastest possible way. You can always go back and add more details to each task, but first, get it done.

FTAD Works

If you live your life with FTAD, the increased productivity and energy of finishing tasks and projects will be very rewarding.

In summary
  • Always have a finished document, software, website, presentation, demo, routine or product
  • Continually work on improving it
  • Maintain the ability to distribute it at any time
  • Set time constraints to help speed up delivery
  • Work on the most important features first
  • Get others to use it

Hey, I'm finished! Look for more details in a future version.

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