“I am so good at starting things … why do I suck at finishing everything?” This was the plaintive query during a recent client conversation.
I assured her she is not alone; this is an ongoing challenge for business owners. We are easily distracted by shiny objects and the thrill of starting something new. We are seldom motivated by implementation and finishing anything.
We start new things with a burst of energy and enthusiasm that dwindles and wanes as time goes on. As a result, often things end up taking much longer to finish than they need to, or they never get finished at all.
In his book, ‘Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done’, John Acuff mentions he regularly hears people say, “I’ve never had a problem starting. I’ve started a million things, but I never finish them. Why can’t I finish?”
So, why is it so many of us have lists of unfinished things weighing on our shoulders? Why don’t we make them a priority?
We say it’s because there’s not enough time or not enough money. However, I think it is more likely that we:
- Have no interest in doing the tasks required to get it done.
- Lost the sense of urgency.
- Are frozen by perfection and the fear that it won’t be that good.
- Are overwhelmed by the work ahead – it feels too big.
- Don’t know how to finish it.
- Don’t have the skills to finish it.
- Lost interest – something more interesting has come along.
- Lost sight of what finished will look like – or it got right out of scope.
Here are seven actions you can take to help you finish what you started.
- Clearly define what “finished” looks like?
Clarify the deliverable and identify what needs to be done for completion. Can you change the scope for earlier or easier completion?
- Delegate what you aren’t good at.
Identify the components you don’t know how to do or aren’t inspired by and delegate them to someone else. There is always someone who loves to do what you don’t. They can probably do it better and faster than you.
- Avoidance can be a strategy.
Don’t promise unnecessary deliverables unless you can comfortably schedule the work in your calendar. We all want to help people, especially our clients. We offer to do things above and beyond what is necessary, and it comes back to haunt us.
- What is “putting it off” costing you in time, money, or growth opportunity?
Do you have to write a report before you send the final invoice? Or edit a white paper before you can run your campaign? Or write a procedure before you can delegate the work you don’t want to do? How much is “unfinished” costing you?
- Create a sense of urgency.
Schedule a date to “walk someone through” your prototype. Promise your client a realistic delivery date. Set a time to work with someone else on your project. We may break a promise to ourselves, but we seldom break a promise to other people.
- Don’t put it on your list; put it in your calendar.
We always put our client commitments and meetings in our calendar. Do the same with time associated to finishing things. Move it from your list – to your calendar. Schedule and honour realistic blocks of time in your calendar to finish what you started.
- Set yourself up for success.
Create and keep good systems and records supporting finishing. There is nothing more frustrating and disheartening than not being able to find the information you need to complete a project. Especially when you “know you have it somewhere”.
There is an incredible sense of accomplishment when we finish something. That great feeling when we check something off the list and pat ourselves on the back for getting it done. Completion feels good … Enjoy it!