Many people fail to finish what they started. Here’s what you can do to finish off yours.
Imagine yourself running a marathon. You had a good start compared to other competitors. Halfway through the race, you saw a beautiful garden of tulips. “I have a considerable lead. I run faster than the others too. I’ll just take a break.”
Not long after, you find yourself walking farther and farther from the race track. Other runners have already passed you by. But you are too busy chasing butterflies and grasshoppers to notice.
You lost sight of the finish line.
You got distracted.
Learning to finish what you started is one of the biggest and most impactful lessons in life and in business. A backlog of initiatives, tasks, and projects will not get you closer to success. Do you have a habit of not finishing what you started? Perhaps, the tips below can help.
How to Finish What You Start
1. Decide to finish what you start
“Begin with the end in mind.”
This quote from Stephen Covey will always be among my favorites. It highlights the importance of having a clear vision of the end goal in your mind before even starting a project. I suggest that you write down your goal and place it somewhere where you can see it regularly (maybe on your bathroom mirror?). This will serve as your daily reminder of the things you want to achieve. If you have already started your project, take a minute and write down the vision you had before.
Review these goals regularly and then, decide to finish them. Tell yourself that no matter what, these lingering tasks will no longer linger. Commit to yourself that you will change your behavior so you can finish what you started. This could mean saying no to other tasks so you’ll have enough time and energy for projects that matter most.
2. Divide a big project into smaller milestones
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” – Henry Ford
It’s easy to back down when you are faced with a big, daunting task. Dividing your project into smaller, more manageable milestones helps you avoid stress and beat procrastination. People who fail to finish what they started often comment that they feel overwhelmed. Below are some steps on how you can break tasks down to make them less intimidating:
- Have a look at the big picture. Review your end goal in tip number 1.
- Examine different parts of your project. Figure out each step you need to make to finish it.
- Rank each step accordingly. What should you do first, second, third, fourth, etc.?
- Create a timeline for each milestone. Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency and will help stay focused all throughout.
- Have a plan. Put the time and resources you need to finish each task. Stick with this plan throughout the entire project. Remember, a plan is only good if you see it through.
3. Budget your time and energy
Putting your big project aside, you still have your entire life to deal with. So, how do you make sure that you have enough time and energy to complete each task
After you’ve made a list of small tasks that you need to do, your next step should be to create an outline detailing how much resources (time, effort, money, etc.) you need to complete each one.
Integrate this timeline to your to-do list. Plan your day around your tasks to make sure that it doesn’t get pushed around. Also, don’t forget to give yourself some buffer just in case things don’t go as you expected.
People who underestimate the amount of time and effort needed to complete a project often fail. Time and energy are finite resources. So, make sure you manage yourself appropriately.
4. Things don’t have to be perfect
How many times have you delayed or derailed a project because you want to get it right? Don’t get me wrong, perfectionism is a good motivation. However, it’s a double-edged sword. Perfectionism can also prevent you from getting things done.
If you find yourself stalled and spending more time than needed on a task because it doesn’t feel right, put it aside first and move on to the next. You can always come back to it later with a fresh perspective. And when you do, you’ll notice that what you are fretting on is not that much of a big deal.
Another helpful tip is to constantly refer back to tip #1 and #2 to remind you that the objective is to finish the project. You can always do the polishing later.
5. Reward yourself for finishing off small tasks
Rewarding yourself for each milestone you complete will keep you motivated. One of the reasons why many people fail to finish what they started is because it’s hard to put in consistent effort when you don’t see immediate results. You don’t have to wait for the completion of the entire project before you start patting yourself on the back. Here are some things you can do:
- Enjoy a hot bath
- Watch a movie
- Eat out for dinner
- Go on a hike
- Enjoy a local attraction
- Night out
- Buy a new book
- Watch sports
- Pamper yourself
- Get a massage
6. If things are not really working out, don’t force it.
I love this quote from Michael Jordan:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. Maybe something more important came up. Or you lost complete interest on the goal. These things do happen and they are normal. People change. Every day, we get new ideas, find new interests, and discover new passions.
Is it a waste of effort? Many will say yes. But no, it’s not when you take with you some lessons from the experience. Before dropping a project consider this question first:
Are the benefits of completing the project still worth the efforts and future resources that you will spend on it?
If after careful and thorough consideration, the answer is no, then drop it. Don’t get tempted to push yourself to go on. Given that you already lost interest in it in the first place, continuing on will be like pushing a car uphill.
It’s not worth it. Move on the next project and do better.
Bonus: Sounds to Help You Focus When Working on a Task
Can music really help you finish what you started? Researchers from the University of Illinois found out that listening to music at work increases productivity by 6.3% over a control group. So, I guess, it helps! I, for one, love listening to music when working.
Below are some types of music (and where to find them) that’ll help you get pumped up when juggling a task:
1. Classical Music
Do you love Mozart? Baroque classical music like Bach’s Concerto #3 and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are getting a lot of attention because of their mind-boosting effects. Experts say that listening to classical music increases brain wave activity which is linked directly with memory and productivity. Plus, it sparks creativity and reduces stress levels!
2. Ambient /Nature Music
Ambient music provides you with a great way to relax. It helps relieve stress and is not too distracting when you are at work. Here’s a playlist that you can try if you are in the lookout for a calming forest ambiance. Prefer the waves? Here’s one for you.
3. White Noise / Background Sounds
The key to focusing in a noisy place, like a coffee shop or open office, is masking the sounds with white noise. Noisli is my go-to for soothing sounds like rain or the sounds of being on a train. I use the browser plugin for quick access.
Counter-intuitively, to block out people talking around you, add layers of chatter on top so your brain stops trying to listen to the words. Coffitivity takes you straight into a productive, creative mood.
4. Video Game Music
Epic video game music is full of intensity. And maybe that’s all you need to keep you going! After all, it’s crucial that you dodge that attack and defeat hordes of enemies! Here’s one to keep the adrenaline flowing!
Are you ready to finish off the project you started weeks, months, or years ago? Great! To recap, keep these tips in mind:
- Commit to finishing it!
- Divide your project into smaller tasks
- Budget your time and energy
- Don’t worry if it’s not perfect
- Reward yourself after completing every small task
- Boost your productivity with classical, ambient, or epic video game music!
Norberts Erts is the co-founder of HR software company CakeHR, that streamlines attendance and performance management for customers worldwide. He keeps a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them. Connect with Norberts on Twitter and LinkedIn.