I feel pulled to write on this subject because, guess what, I struggle with finishing things as well. Here are my 10 ideas for you:
- Focus on 'Why?'. Dan Pink has researched the topic of human motivation thoroughly and concluded that the sense of purpose is the best motivator. If you know why do you want to do something, it gets way easier to start as well as to finish doing it. What is the purpose of your project? Start with'why?' and proceed to idea #2.
- Write the list of benefits of finishing the particular project. This is the extension of 'why?', just a bit better, because 'why?' can end up having a not-so-cool answer:"Because my boss/mom/boyfriend wants me to", "Because that's what everybody does", "Because that's the logical next step." These answers might not make you enthusiastic. Focus on the benefits of finishing. What are the good things on the other side? Freedom? A new beginning? Building trust? Why do you want to finish the project? What is so good about finishing it? (When evaluating, don't forget to check idea #10.)
- Come up with a deadline. We can say whatever we want, but the deadline is a really good tool that will push us to wrap things up. Even if it's an arbitrary, self-imposed date, a simple act of circling it on the calendar can boost our sense of urgency and motivation as well as our likelihood of finishing. Deadlines are good. They make us procrastinate less and force us to come up with an action plan.
- Announce the deadline. If only you hold yourself accountable, you will be very likely to skip the deadline. You will justify your actions and the lack of the results. "This was a busy week anyways. I couldn't find the perfect cover photo. It doesn't matter, nobody knows about this deadline..." When you announce your deadline to someone else, it has much greater significance. You cannot let the people down. They will expect the results from you. That's how you build your credibility. Finishing will not be questioned.
- Track your progress. I am a visual learner, like many. I feel the best when I can see my progress. Thus, I try to track it. In terms of habits, I mark the days on the calendar when I did yoga, exercised, when I wrote, and so on. Seeing a blank calendar makes me feel bad, so I try to fill it as best I can. In terms of projects, you can also use your calendar or any kind of visual tool where you can present a step-by-step process. You can check all the accomplished steps and follow your progress closely. Plus, it's exciting. Which is the exact type of energy you want in order to become a better project finisher.
- Work in small steps but get ready for a few long and focused sessions. Small steps will take you far. Work slowly, consistently and diligently. But also get ready to invest some more time and energy and make some bigger leaps to finish the project. Around the deadline, that's usually what you have to do.
- Complete smaller challenges first. That's how you build the consistency. When you come home from work, hang your coat instead of putting it on the couch, change your clothes, and unpack your bag. When you put a mug in the sink, invest 10 more seconds and wash it. Follow the 2-minute rule: if something can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it now. That way you will finish a number of small tasks, feel accomplished, and build momentum to finish bigger projects.
- Kill your perfectionism. Perfectionism is a huge enemy of getting things done. You will never do a project perfectly. You can always polish this sentence and that chart a bit more, you can always embellish the introduction or cover page. You can always work a bit more. Will it be perfect after all the interventions? Hell no! So forget the perfectionism. Do good, quality, valuable work. Wrap it up. Ship it. Do you know what the value is of an imperfect novel that sits in your drawer, a blog post draft that needs just a couple more tweaks, a web site that is not ready to be shown to the world yet? A pile of poop. When you complete it and ship it in its less-than-perfect state, that's another story. Done is better than perfect. And here is a helpful resource created by Seth Godin: . Check it out.
- Remember that finishing gives you new energy. We are often afraid of finishing because we anticipate that finishing requires too much work. In fact, carrying a whole bunch of open loops and unfinished tasks requires too much mental work. It drains your energy. Whenever you finish something, you get an energy boost. Try it with something small (#7) and see yourself.
- You don't have to finish everything. The last but not the least, maybe finishing is not what you really need. It depends on the project. Go back to #1 and #2 and see what the purpose of your project is, what the benefits are, and why you want to do that instead of something else. Procrastination can be a form of intuition; you may feel that certain endeavor is not the best use of your time and lose your enthusiasm. Persistence is valuable, but only if you persist on meaningful things. If you persist in doing the same thing over and over again, it will lead you nowhere. I never finish the book I don't like after 50 pages or the movie that doesn't resonate with me after 30 minutes. What's the point? There are so many better ways to spend my time. No one will give me an award for finishing meaningless stuff. If you are not sure if you should quit or commit,
I hope these ideas will help you make some difficult choices and finish some meaningful projects.
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