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Do you find yourself struggling to finish what you start?
Following through on a plan can be so difficult with all of the distractions, doubt, and obstacles that can come from pursuing your goals.
That’s not even touching on additional difficulties like mental health issues that make it hard to focus or do anything with consistency over a long period.
It’s so easy to get distracted by all of the shiny objects of the world that are regularly trying to pull your attention away to something else. There are websites, social media, streaming services, socializing, chores, work, other work that you should probably be doing but aren’t.
And, hey! I got so much to do! Way too much. I think I’ll take a nap before I get to work to be energized and rested, but where oh where did my motivation go once I wake up?
It’s hard, but it doesn’t have to stay hard. There are good ways to stay focused on finishing your tasks.
A good way to start is…
1. Only take on projects that are an emphatic yes.
You may have heard this advice given in different ways.
“Do the things that speak to you.”
“Do the things that set your soul on fire.”
“Don’t make moves unless your heart is into it.”
This advice is to avoid lukewarm projects and things you don’t really want to do if you can avoid them.
Now, responsibility is responsibility. We may not want to do many things, but we need to do them because they are our responsibilities.
But, there is wiggle room for self-improvement, art, projects, hobbies, and other activities that don’t necessarily fall into the responsibility category.
You’re going to have a much harder time learning to play guitar if you don’t care too much for making music. You certainly can if you want to, but you’re less likely to follow through and do all the work and practice if it doesn’t spark any passion in you.
2. Develop SMART goals for your project.
SMART is a common and effective goal-setting technique that can be applied to just about any goal.
A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
By defining your goals within this structure, you provide yourself with a road map for completing your tasks and achieving your goals.
And every big goal that you have is just a collection of smaller goals.
Let’s go back to the example of learning to play guitar. The long-term goal of learning to play guitar is a collection of smaller goals that you can outline and define.
You’ll need to learn how to change strings and tune the guitar.
You’ll need to learn how to read music or tablature.
You’ll need to learn different notes, chords, and how they all work together.
You’ll need to practice regularly to hone your skills and build your finger muscles.
It’s pretty easy to find the process of learning to play the guitar already in a goal-oriented format. That’s the kind of structure that lessons and a tutor can provide.
A SMART goal within the overarching goal of learning to play guitar would look something like: “I want to fully understand Lesson 1 at the end of two weeks.” The goal is Specific (understanding the lesson), Measurable (either you do or don’t understand the lesson), Achievable (understanding a lesson in two weeks should be achievable), Relevant (it’s part of the process of learning), and Time-Bound (two weeks).
3. Journal or create “To Do” lists.
Journaling is a powerful tool for goal-setting, finishing projects, and just getting things done.
That being said, if you don’t want to journal, even just setting up a “To Do” list can help you stay on task and focused. Some people also find it rewarding to cross off the items that they complete as they work through their list.
The act of setting up the list requires you to sit down and think about what you need to get accomplished and why. That helps to put the task at the forefront of your thoughts and consideration. You know you need to do the thing because the thing is on the list, and you added it to the list because it’s a thing that you want to get done.
A super simple way to go about it is to sit down at a quiet time and plan what you need to accomplish at the beginning of your week. Pick a quiet time that you can stick to so you can make it a weekly habit. Maybe Sunday morning before the kids get up is the right time because you have Sunday off and don’t need to worry about rushing around. You might also find it is easier to plan before you settle into bed for the night.
4. Don’t take on too many projects at once.
Time is the most valuable resource that you have. You only get 24 hours in your day, just like every other person in the world.
The way you spend that limited amount of time will determine what you can get accomplished and how your life will go. You can’t waste your limited time procrastinating or overworking yourself to the point of breakdown.
You have to strike a balance. To be balanced, you have to avoid taking on too many projects at once.
That can be difficult if you happen to be a people pleaser or someone that tends to say “yes” to just about any suggestion thrown your way. While it is not inherently bad to want to help out, you must keep in mind that most people are more concerned with themselves and their schedules. They aren’t often going to think about how they are taking up your time unless you are willing to set boundaries and enforce them.
Sometimes, that’s something you need to do with yourself too. If you already have two or three major projects eating up your time, getting distracted by another is a sure way not to finish any of them. Eventually, you overwhelm yourself with all of the work you need to do.
Consider whether or not you should take on a different project. Consider the time investment and your energy levels. You do need regular time to rest and recover.
5. Aim for good, not perfect.
You may have heard this saying before: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” This is speaking to the perfectionist nature of investing excessive time and energy into a particular thing because it must be perfect; otherwise, it’s not good.
Perfectionism can come from different places. Sometimes it’s an anxiety thing, where the fear and trepidation is so great that it keeps the person from seeing their work as something quality even if it’s not perfect.
Sometimes it’s a trauma response, where the person is regularly hearing the unkind words of how they aren’t good enough and need to do better from someone they just wanted love and acceptance from.
Whatever the reason, perfectionism will prevent you from accomplishing your goals and finishing projects if you let it.
When they say perfect is the enemy of good, what they mean is that a project cannot be judged to be good if it’s not finished. At some point, you need to call the project finished and move on to something else, which you can’t do if you’re on your 50th draft of tweaks.
Do allow yourself some time to draft and polish your project, whatever it may be, but don’t get so caught up in trying to create perfect that it’s never good because it never gets finished.
(Author’s note: And personally, speaking as a writer where that’s a problem for many of us, you can spend hours of your life tweaking the smallest “problems” of your work, think you crafted something magnificent, and then it just doesn’t land with the audience. Excessive editing is almost always a bad idea.)
6. Allow yourself flexibility in finishing your projects.
There are different ways to go about accomplishing goals or finishing projects. You might make a list of things to do and find yourself procrastinating because you really don’t feel like doing what’s next on your list.
So don’t do it right then! Do something else on the list. No rule states you need to go down the list line by line to knock each thing out. All that matters is that the work gets done.
That is, unless it’s something where you need to get Goal 1 done before you can tackle Goal 4. Then yes, you will need to finish them in a particular order.
Allow yourself some flexibility to work on what you want to work on when the mood strikes you. You’re not a machine. You don’t have to function like one.
7. Track and reward your progress.
A good way to finish what you start is to measure and track your long-term progress. To build on what we previously said about SMART goals, this is more of a long-term look at how far you’ve come and what more you can accomplish.
You may find that journaling about your overall effort will provide the kind of structure you need to track your progress and find places to reward yourself along the way.
Rewards help produce a little positive feedback loop that can keep you motivated through the low times and pushing on to the next stage of progress.
Look for milestones on the journey to reward yourself. These can be large or small rewards. Like, maybe practicing the guitar every day for two weeks calls for a treat. Or making progress over months could be rewarding yourself with a better guitar or new equipment. Make those upgrades into rewards as part of the overall journey and effort.
8. Do the work.
There will be good times and terrible times. There will be times when you feel super motivated to conquer the world and other times where it all just drags, and you’d rather do anything else.
All of that can be combated by remembering why you started in the first place, then getting back to work.
Accomplishing goals, finishing projects, whatever you’re trying to do will require you to do the work. There’s no other way around it.
Don’t waste your time considering how you feel and whether you should do this. Sit down, do the work, regardless of how you feel about it.
Even if it doesn’t feel good at the moment, it will feel amazing once you start knocking those projects out!
Still not sure how to finish the things you start? The advice above can really help, but so can having someone hold you accountable for following through on your goals and projects. A life coach is a wise investment if you actually want to push forward and get things done. So why not speak to one today? Simply click here to connect with one.
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