How To Finish What You Start All The Time

In order to become more productive and effective, we must become good at completing what we start. Whether it is a task or a project, the better we become at finishing things, the better our results will be.

As our lives gets busier and busier, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to manage the things we have to do and the things we want to do a lot better. Having systems and tools to help us is now no longer an option — it is mandatory.

If we’re not good at finishing things, it means we have a lot of “incompletes,” which is one of the main causes of stress and overwhelm. That can lead to delays in projects, which can affect us financially, emotionally, relationally and physically.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As an entrepreneur, I am always conscious of the things I have on my plate and what I have committed to. Whenever I am struggling to finish things, I know it’s because of only a few reasons and I’m able to apply some strategies to turn it around.

Here are five steps I take whenever I am considering taking on a new task or project that will increase my chances of finishing it, one way or the other. Having these guidelines to follow eliminates stress, confusion on whether to do something or not, and supports me in continually improving what and how I do things.

  1. Only choose tasks or projects that you are passionate about. This means starting or taking on less things. The more we have on our plates, the less focused we will be, which means we won’t be able to give a project the attention it needs. Of course, we all have things in our lives that we may not necessarily enjoy, however they must be done in order to support other needs we have. Learning to say no more often is something that will help us only take on things we are passionate about.
  2. Visualise the benefits of completing a task or project. The idea here is we must be emotionally connected to what we want to happen after we complete the thing we are doing. Here are some things to ponder on:
    • What are some of the benefits you will receive when you finish that project?
    • How will you feel as you integrate the success of finishing that project into your life?
    • What impact will you make when you have finished that project?
  3. Break a big task or project into smaller, manageable tasks. The only way to tackle a big task or project is to complete many small tasks. This is why having a task management system is extremely beneficial if we have multiple projects to complete. There are many desktop and mobile application options available today. The one I used in called Nozbe and below is a screenshot of how I have categorised the projects I am working on.
    162-nozbe-project-list
  4. Schedule time in your calendar for your tasks and projects. Just having a list of projects and tasks is not enough. We must take the next step and schedule them into our calendar. When we schedule something, it becomes real. We’ve given ourselves a deadline to get it done. Consistent focus and progress is what will guarantee we finish our major projects. It is also useful to add in some buffer time when estimating how long something will take to complete.
  5. Cut your losses and walk away. There will be occasions when things will not work out, no matter how much we put into them. That’s when we need to be courageous and be willing to stop a project, even if we have invested a lot into it, either financially, physically, emotionally or time-wise. It takes a strong person to walk away from something that may have been important at one time. The key is to extract the lessons learned from the experience so that we can avoid putting ourselves in a similar situation again in the future.

Finishing what we start is really a habit, just like starting something and not finishing it is. We don’t want to be known as someone who gets all excited about something new but loses interest or cannot be relied upon to get it done. If we have some guidelines to follow, like those described above, it will make our lives so much easier and enjoyable. And we will be known as someone who gets things done.

Action Step: Make a list of all the tasks and projects you are working on, would like to work on and have been thinking about. Once you have that list, identify which ones you are passionate about and eliminate everything else from your list. It won’t be easy, however it will be tremendously helpful.

Question: What have you found to be a technique to help you finish what you start?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Thanks, Neel! I’ve been cleaning out my closet (literally) and found some items related to old goals which didn’t pan out and which it’s now time to walk away from. Tnx for the support!

    • Neel Raman

      Hey Jane, sometimes walking away is the most effective strategy to finish a project. One thing to remember is to go through a mental process of actually “completing” that project if you have decided to walk away from it. Thanks for sharing your story.