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How to Finish Something

How to Finish Something


    Got any lingering projects that you just can’t seem to finish? Let me share 6 tips with you that can make the difference between finishing and floundering in the realm of good intentions.

    Use Time Blocking

    Set aside a block of time, from 30 minutes to 2 hours to work on a task or finish a portion of a larger project. Schedule the time and then keep that appointment as faithfully as you would any other. Time blocking can be especially effective on unpleasant jobs – you can look forward to the time block being over, but still make progress on the job.

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    Make it Fun!

    Ever heard this expression?

    “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

    Well, projects get done quicker when they are fun too! Find a way to make your task enjoyable, either by playing good music while you work or planning a fantastic reward for yourself. Or simply distract yourself from the yuckiness of the job using whatever means necessary. This step is critical in finishing something you’ve been procrastinating on! (You don’t feel like procrastinating on fun stuff.)

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    Renew Your Inspiration

    There must have been a reason you wanted to do this thing in the first place. Think again about **why** you wanted to do it, and how it contributes to the larger picture or goal that you have. It’s easy to lose sight of the inspiration that made you start, and it’s not hard to find that inspiration again. Reconnect with the **why** and you will feel more motivated to get going.

    Change Your Expectations

    Often, we get discouraged along the way because we think that this job shouldn’t have taken as long as it is… or we put ourselves down for taking so long… or we want it to be so perfect, we are paralyzed from doing anything. Change your expectations, and you will feel much better. So what if you are a little behind on your original plan? Maybe that plan was unrealistic. Start from where you are now with new inspiration and see what progress you can make. You might be surprised how smooth it goes!

    Finish One Thing at a Time

    We often get ourselves in trouble by trying to take on too many things at once. Pick one thing – the most important, not necessarily the most urgent – and focus on that until it is done. If you have no choice but to work on several things at once, use time blocking to divide your day.

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    Be Stubborn

    Sometimes, the only way to finish something is to simply get stubborn and keep at it until it’s done. This is a great strategy for things that take a long time, like finishing a degree or a thesis – just keep at it, and the results will be worth it!

    “There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see, yet small enough to solve.” – Mike Leavitt

    Bonus Tip: Give Yourself Permission Not to Finish

    Sometimes, we jump into things too quickly without realizing what we’re getting into. If you really, truly, do not want to finish that thing you’ve started, and absolutely can’t find any inspiration to finish or a way to make it fun, then give yourself permission to back out. There is nothing wrong with quitting when priorities have changed. Making the conscious decision to quit – don’t do it in a fit of frustration – can really help you clear out some mental clutter and refocus your energy toward something you feel inspired to do.

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    (Photo credit: Athlete Celebrating Victory via Shutterstock)

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    Teresa Griffith

    Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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