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10 Essential Tips To Finish What You Start

10 Essential Tips To Finish What You Start

For the full original unedited article, visit Celestine’s blog, Personal Excellence.

Do you have a habit of starting projects, but not finishing them?

If so, you are not alone. Many people have a habit of starting projects but not finishing them, which is a very bad practice.

Completing a project successfully takes proper planning and conscious action. If you have ever embarked on a project, you’d know that every goal/project comes with its own set of challenges which are not visible when you first start.

Personally, I embark on many projects in the course of running my business and pursuing my personal goals, and I have a good body of experience on how to successfully take projects from start to completion. Here are my 10 best tips on how to finish the projects you start:

1. Be selective in what you embark on

When you start on a project (especially a large scale one), make sure it is something you are passionate about and you want to see through.

I have embarked on things which I was half-interested in in the past, for example learning tennis or learning Japanese. Eventually I stopped them mid-way. This resulted in waste of time and resources which could have been better utilized elsewhere. Because of that, I’m more conscious of how I utilize my time and energy today.

If you set a high threshold on what you want to do, the completion rate is also higher. If you aren’t sure that this is something you really want to do, dip your feet into the pool first – try it out on a small scale and see if it’s what you’re interested in.

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2. Estimate the resources you need

In companies they do resource planning, where they estimate how much resources is needed for a project. After which, they plan out the manpower and investment accordingly. For us, that means doing a quick plan on how much time and effort this idea will take, so we can have a bird’s eye view.

It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Just a quick outline will help. The point is to have something that guides you.

3. Budget your time and energy accordingly

After you create your outline, you should have a realistic idea of how much time and effort is needed to complete it. Plan out your time and resources accordingly and integrate them into your schedule/to-do list. Block out time in your calendar for the project. Give yourself some buffer as well, in case of contingencies.

A big reason for loss of enthusiasm or energy is when people underestimate the amount of work needed to bring the goal to life. Good planning of resources help you plan out your energy and expectations. You know you have to put in X hours and X work to get the final output, so you’ll manage yourself appropriately to achieve your desired outcome. This’ll lead to a higher project success rate.

4. Quit being a perfectionist

How many of us keep delaying work because we want to get it just right? I’m all for perfectionism and getting the best output, but if your desire for perfectionism is preventing you from getting things done, I think it’s good to challenge it.

Try these two tips: First, break the task into many little steps, then focus on one part at the time. If you still put it off after breaking it down, then break it down even further into mini pieces. Soon, you’ll be left with such a simple task that you’ll be wondering what was keeping you from doing it from before!

The second tip is to give yourself the permission to do a draft version. Meaning, there’s no need to get it done right the first time. Creating a draft, even if it’s a crappy one, is better than if you didn’t do anything at all. Get started and things will roll on from there.

Read: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect

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5. Commit to it

Once you start, commit to it. Whatever you have planned, do them. Give yourself the option to exit a project if it’s really not in line with your vision (see #9), but otherwise hold yourself to your word.

A while back I was overseas in Hong Kong for a conference. While I was there, my friends asked me if I wanted to go sightseeing during the weekday evenings and weekends. I rejected the offer because I was working on an e-course program on my site and the project was falling behind my personal timeline. Finishing the book was about my commitment to myself and also to my readers out there who would truly benefit from it. Sightseeing was something I could always do in a separate time – it was not big of a deal.

Likewise for you, ask yourself what’s more important to you – Going out to party for the weekend or to work on that business you’ve been meaning to set-up? The former might bring you some temporal gratification, but the latter is what truly gives you satisfaction. The rewards you get from doing the latter are rewards which you’ll continue to reap long afterwards.

Read: 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity

6. Connect with your end vision

You might have experienced this. Whenever you begin on a new project, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm. Then when you get into the thick of things, this energy fades away, bit by bit. You’re still excited about the overall project, but you’re not so hyped about the nitty gritty tasks that come as part of the work.

But all this nitty gritty work IS part of what leads you to your beautiful vision in the end. Every little bit you’re doing now counts toward realizing that end vision. It’s just to lose sight of that because you’re caught up in your daily life.

The problem here is your end vision has slipped away from you, so just bring it back in sight. Surround yourself with anything that’s reminds you of your end goal, such as your vision board, pictures of others who have achieved the same goal, and objects that represent the goal.

7. Follow the path of highest enjoyment

I found one of the easiest and most effortless ways to complete my projects is to be flexible in my project management approach. For example, most people will finish the tasks in their to-do list in sequential order. Task 1 comes first, followed by Task 2, then Task 3, etc. Sounds straight forward and easy, doesn’t it?

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I did this for a long time until I realized it wasn’t the most effective method. For example, some days I would procrastinate on a project because I felt like doing Task 3 rather than Task 1. Yet by the project management rule, I needed to do Task 1 first before I could do Task 3.

On the other hand, when I give myself flexibility over what to do (while maintaining within the confines of the project), working on the project becomes like a big adventure. This approach makes me feel like I’m in a candy store and I get to pick whatever candy I want.

I refer to this as the path of highest enjoyment – doing what makes you feel happiest at the moment. When you do so, you automatically become productive in your work.

8. Track your progress

Tracking your progress helps you understand how you’re doing and gives you a target to reach. This makes it easier to keep up with your momentum.

Create a project sheet that records your targets and your current status. Specify your KPIs that you want to achieve. If your goal is to lose weight, your KPIs will be your weight, your fat percentage, and perhaps your performance during your exercise sessions.

Then every week, review your progress. What % of your end goal have you achieved? Is it on track against your target? What is your target for the next week? Tracking makes you accountable to your goal and helps you to stay on track.

9. Celebrate what you’ve done so far

Sometimes we get discouraged with all the things that need to be done. It seems like no matter how much time we spend, it’s impossible to finish it. The amount of work overwhelms us and we opt out halfway.

Here’s the thing – Everything you’ve done so far IS an accomplishment! Give yourself a huge pat on the back and a big bear hug. Celebrate the process, the resting, the doing, the completion, everything. Take the opportunity to recharge and regroup. When you’re ready, continue on to with what you’re doing.

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10. Don’t force it if it’s really not working out

Sometimes, it just happens that you lose interest in the goal. It happens, and it’s normal. We change, our interests change, and we get new ideas and inspiration the whole time.

It might seem like a big waste dropping all that’s done, but it’s not big of a deal. You are capable of achieving a lot more than you realize. Trying to hold on to what you’ve done just prevents more goodness from coming your way.

I adopt the drop-and-go approach a lot with my work. For the 400 over articles on my blog Personal Excellence, there are actually about 100 half-written articles that have not seen the light of the day (yet). Some of them are 10% complete, some 30% complete, and some about half done. I don’t obsess myself with finishing these articles; I simply write as my inspiration guides me.

You might ask: Wouldn’t all the work that went into writing the posts (halfway) go to waste? Not at all. They all add to my 10,000 hours of experience. I learn from writing them, and this learning will come in handy for my future posts.

Give yourself the permission to drop what you’re doing if it’s not working out, and you might just find many new things coming your way straight after that.

Free Manifesto

If you have enjoyed this article, get the free manifesto version here, where you can review the tips wherever you are, whenever you want: [Manifesto] How To Finish What You Start

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Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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