How to Finish What You Start

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photo by Gabriel Saldana CC BY-SA 2.0

photo by Gabriel Saldana CC BY-SA 2.0

There are many projects that I’ve started and haven’t finished. It doesn’t keep me from starting other projects. But somewhere behind my mind, there is that little vague feeling of guilt for not finishing what I have started.

Do you sometimes feel that way too? Guilty about the projects that you have started and haven’t completed?

What is the key elements to finally complete the projects that we started?

There must be a trick right? Indeed there is. And that trick is: start only the projects that you will finish. Is it that simple?

In the following, we will illustrate how the planing phase is as important as the actions that we take, in order to increase our productivity and finish what we started.

Plan to finish what you start

The projects that we start must be aligned with our highest values. With that kind of projects, we will start as gracefully as a bird starts its flight and we will manage to finish them despite difficulties and challenges.

If you start something of highest value to you, you will need no reminder and no motivation from the outside to do what you have to do. You will be on fire and excited for every steps of your project. And soon it will be completed.

For instance if you highly value being a parent, you will dearly take care of your children and they will come first. Any project related to your children will see completion because it is a priority. On the other hand, you might not find the motivation to do projects that are not directly related to your children

If you work or your business is of highest value to you, all projects work/business related will have priority. You will feel alive by working on that kind of projects, even if other areas of your life might suffer from it. For example not getting enough break from too much hard work.

Those two simplistic examples illustrate that you are more likely to finish the projects that are highly valuable to you because you feel passionate about them.

Even when the enthusiasm of the beginning fades away, you’ll continue to create momentum. Your motive comes from within and you do it because you want to do it and because you love doing it.

Now what about those other projects that are not aligned with our highest values and that we have to finish? What to do about them?

We need to answer to the question WHY? Why are we doing this at all? Can we align it to what is important to us, to our highest values? Can we relate it to what is important to us?

If we can find a correlation to our highest values, it becomes a little bit easier to move forward and eventually complete the project.

Well sometimes we need to admit that we are not really into it – it is not that important to us – not aligned with our highest values – may be we were just blindly imitating someone else. In this case, although there might be consequences, we need not be afraid and stop it. Move on to something else, something more meaningful to us, to our true self.

We just don’t have to finish everything we’ve started. Let’s say you start reading a book or an article and you don’t like what you read, it is legitimate to stop and move to something worth your time. We can still come to this kind of projects later if we want or have to, especially if we find later a correlation with what is really important to us.

OK! Now let’s have a look on the projects that are somehow aligned or related to our highest values and we still have trouble finishing. The following tips can be helpful.

Avoid taking too many projects at the same time. My suggestion is to Focus your attention on one cognitive project and one motoric project at the same time.

Evaluate the resources that you will need, the challenges that you will face and be prepared on how you will overcome them.

Do just enough research to find out and be specific on what baby steps you will need to break the project into. Don’t loose too much time in this planing phase. Then take action.

Next, we will cover tips on actions that will make us finish what we start.

Actions that will help you finish what you start

By now you are committed with good planing to start only projects that you will finish right? Cool! Let’s dive next into the actions that will make you finish what you started.

Divide the project into small enough milestones, I like to call them babysteps, and put them on your to do list. Then work on it and cross off what is done from the list. This will hell you stop procrastination.

Enjoy the process. Make sure that you are fully present and that you have fun in the process – whenever possible. The process is what makes Life, not only the result.

Manage your time and energy wisely. What time in the day are you the most energetic and productive? That is the time when you should do your most important tasks.

Eliminate barriers and distractions. When you work, work. You might consider doing your most important tasks before 11:00 a.m. Is there a due date. Then plan your activities accordingly.

Shift the not so important projects to focus your attention to the urgent one. Remember that this is only an advice to use in crisis, when you are under time pressure. The norm should state that you manage your time according to what is important to you and not so much to what is urgent.

If you are highly under time pressure think about whether or not the due date is negotiable. If so push the due date in order to finish with a high quality work – instead of a mediocre work on time. Be aware that pushing the due date will have consequences. For example your grade or your reputation can suffer a little bit.

Have a support group. Feel free to ask help whenever your need help. It can be amazing what you can get even just from a conversation in which you explain what your challenges are. You can get some advice, or you can get some new insights in your own mind, just by sharing aloud with somebody else.

When you start something for the first time , don’t expect it to be perfect. If for example you write an essay, give your first draft permission to be crappy. You can have as many draft as possible in the early phase. But don’t stuck yourself on draft for the sake of perfectionism.

It is advisable to limit the early stage of drafting to a finite amount of time. It can be 2 weeks or one month or one year for example, depending on the project.  

Keep creating momentum. You will come back later to review and correct your work – we call it edit in the case of the essay.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead track your own progress. It helps when you have broken the project into small measurable baby steps.

If you find yourself stuck, it might be time for a small break. Switch to another project. For example if your project is a cognitive one like writing, stop and go do something physical… go for a walk, do some stretching, put some music and dance. If your project is a physical project, like de-cluttering your house, stop to read a book, to relax, to write or to paint, etc.

Commit and persist as long as it is aligned with what you really want to achieve, to your highest values.

Celebrate your success – the intermediate milestone and also the accomplishment of the project.

Take Action Now :) Do you have an “open” project, that you would love to finish. Stop what you do right now and do something that will bring you a step forward in your project. Then do at least one action for your project daily. One small step at a time can make a huge difference with consistency.

Now, I would love to hear your tips about what you do to make sure you finish what you started.

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