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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

More by this author

Celestine Chua

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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