Do you ever start things without finishing them? If so, I know how it feels. If you’ve ever wondered how you can start finishing more things you start, read on.
Over the years, I’ve started many things that never got finished. I’d start out on something exciting—a new project or hobby—only to move on to something even more exciting. Or I’d have too much on my plate, get overwhelmed and inevitably drop some balls.
What always felt the worst though, was when no particular decision was made. Not finishing, and also not making a conscious choice to let it go. Just letting it gradually fade into the darkness, soon to be forgotten.
The good news is, there is hope.
Over the last five years, I’ve managed to get a lot better at finishing the things I start. I’ve written a book, built companies, launched a podcast, and more.
If you struggle with finishing things, you’re not broken. You just need to make a few small changes in the way you approach the things you start.
Here are the main reasons why things don’t get finished, and how to start finishing.
1 / It’s not on your schedule
While the most important things get time slots on our calendars, the small things often do not.
But everything we do takes time. And I mean everything from taking out the trash to brushing your teeth.
We often forget about the small things we need to do, and the transitions between tasks that make everything else possible. It’s likely you have much more going on than you think you do.
When you start something, map out the time that it will take to finish it on your calendar. Whether it’s practicing the guitar you bought or writing the book you’ve been thinking of, lay out the time and space for it to actually get done.
2 / You started too big, too fast
Like building an effective habit, getting bigger things done mostly requires consistent, sustainable progress. What often happens is we go in too deep, too fast, and then get stuck or overwhelmed. Once we hit that point, the chances of returning to the thing diminishes greatly.
Start smaller, test the waters, and learn as you go.
The less overwhelming it is, the more likely you are to finish each step along the way and keep coming back to it until it’s done.
3 / You’re starting too many things
This was my biggest issue. The fact is, it’s really easy to get excited about a new idea. I’d immediately want to pursue new ideas even though I barely had time to complete what I already had going on. This doesn’t mean you have to do only one thing at a time, but it does mean you need to realistically balance what’s too many and what’s too few.
Before you start something new, make a list of all your current projects, activities, and goals for a birds-eye view. If you need to wait until you finish some existing projects, that’s fine. Alternatively, you can decide what you’ll let go of to make space for the new project. Limiting the amount of projects you’re doing at one time will greatly help you to start finishing.
Remember, everything is a project.
4 / You don’t believe you’re a finisher
If you’ve had a pattern of jumping around from thing to thing, you might have developed a belief that you’re simply not a finisher. Your fate is sealed.
Not only is that mentality not helping you, it’s also not true. You’re actually finishing things all the time; they just might not be the things you’re counting.
Even if it’s hard, start with the belief that you are a finisher. Begin recognizing all the things you’re finishing day to day, small and large. Changing your mentality will help change your actions.
Say it with me now.
I am a Finisher.
Inspiration for this article and video came from my friend Charlie Gilkey, who is the author of Start Finishing: How To Go From Idea to Done, and who offers even more great advice in our BTT 027 podcast episode together. Check them out for more on how to start finishing the things you start!
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