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How to Finish What You Have Started

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/muffmuff/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Simply getting up from the chair, stopping all the theorizing and getting started is one of the biggest issues I believe people face. But to keep going until something is finished can also be a big issue (it has certainly been so at times for me at least).

I have however found a few solutions that work for me and help me to reach the finish line. Feel free to chime in with your own solutions that work for you in the comments.

Let go of perfectionism.

This has been a pretty big issue for me in the past. You want to polish everything until it is “perfect”. The problem is just that such thinking often leads to many things not ever being finished.

So you have to find a balance for yourself where you do good work and don’t slack off but at the same time don’t get lost in trying to improve and polish something too much.

I have found that balance through experience.

It is also very important to be aware that nothing will ever be perfect. Striving for perfection can be pretty dangerous. Because you will never feel like you are good enough.

You have set the bar at an inhuman level. And so your self esteem stays low even though your results may be very good.

So just focus on gradually being more consistent instead trying to be perfect.

Realize that good enough is good enough. And that goes both for your work and for you.

Set a deadline.

A few months ago, I set a deadline for when my ebook should be finished. I had realized that just working on it and releasing it when it was done would not work. Because I could always find stuff to add to it. So I had to set a deadline. Sure, I still missed it by a few days but finally I did the last 30 percent of the work and was done with it.

Setting a deadline gave me a kick in the butt and it is generally good way to help you to let go of a need to polish things a bit too much.

Limit yourself in all kinds of ways.

The last part of a project or a task can often feel pretty hard and it’s easy to get lost in procrastination. By setting limits for how often you check email each day, how much time you spend on social networks and forums, how much time you take to make small everyday decisions you can over a month or two develop these things into habits that run automatically most of the time.

By incorporating limits like these into your lifestyle you are less likely to get distracted during the last part of the work and you can keep
your eye on what’s important.

Make it light, don’t create a heavy cloud of drama, problems and complications in your mind.

Realize that much of this is in your head. Your perspective determines to a large degree what you see.

Your relationships to what you want to achieve are – just like your relationships to people – to a large extent just in your head. Try thinking that something is easy and simple instead of “heavy” and complicated and your perception of that external thing you want to achieve tends to change too. Experiment and find healthy and effective relationships to what you want to achieve instead of just seeing something like many people may do.

Bring awareness to you own thought patterns by asking yourself questions like:

“Honestly, am I overcomplicating this?” and
“What is the simplest and most straightforward solution to my problem?”

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  • Melody March 23, 2010, 5:40 pm

    “Make it light, don’t create a heavy cloud of drama, problems and complications in your mind.” That line, especially, really resonated with me. Thanks for the reminders!

  • Self Improvement Explained March 23, 2010, 8:09 pm

    Great insights Henrik…

    I think a trap some of us fall into is, instant gratification.

    We all want/need the end result now. And once we see that the goal might take some work, we stop working on it. Leaving it to collect dust on the sidelines. You know the “under construction pile”…

    Once I was able to let go my desire for instant gratification, I got a lot more done. Plus the “work” became much more fun.

    Rishi Pathani

  • Josten March 24, 2010, 2:08 am

    One of the biggest problems i face in finishing what i’ve started is wanting it to be perfect. But i’m working on doing my best and being happy with that. Setting a deadline helped me a ton with finishing my ebooks. Because i kept putting them off and off. Being lazy but setting the deadline helped me realize that i was wasting time and being lazy.
    Great post

  • Ben Tien March 24, 2010, 5:23 am

    I think, it’s very silly for people who don’t finish what they have started… For the example, some of my friends, when they got a job, I don’t know what they do, but I think that they are doing a procrastination..

  • Lucky Balaraman March 24, 2010, 6:45 am


    May I suggest one more principle: when deciding the order in which to do things, make “what needs to be done” your criterion and not “what I like doing” :-)


  • Cheryl Paris March 24, 2010, 5:54 pm

    Hi Henrick,

    You have mentioned all the points correctly.
    Unless we have a realistic time line to finish a task we will not work passionately towards completing it. We need not to be hard on ourselves if a time line is missed as that is not the end of the world. But, we should truly try to complete the tasks within the time frame.

    We have to be true to ourselves when asking questions and writing down the answers. This is a self assessment exercise which needs to be done in order to be a better person.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl Paris Blog

  • Boris March 26, 2010, 3:17 am

    Very good advices!
    I would suggest another point: Be sure to enjoy the task or want the outcome of the task. What you are doing should be either meaningful or enjoyable, otherwise it should n`t be finished. -It shouldn`t have been started either, but I we made the mistake of starting something that we don`t like or want, then we can abort the process now!

  • Katie March 26, 2010, 5:28 am

    Thank you for inspiring me to let go and take action. I always feel the need to make things perfect, when really I should be putting my thoughts out there! Great post.

  • What would you do in heaven? March 29, 2010, 2:13 am

    I think letting go of perfectionism would be the best for me. In writing my novel, I’ve often felt I’m not doing enough, that I’m not being good enough.

  • Oz March 31, 2010, 6:45 am

    Well, I finished it. The first article Ive read on this blog. This sites been my homepage for about 6 months.

    Submitted my college undergraduate application yesterday. Im 30!

  • commuter.x April 2, 2010, 1:03 am

    I believe setting a deadline is the most important thing I can do. If I’m serious about my deadline most of the other stuff will fall into place. I’ll be forced into narrowing the scope of my project, if necessary, and not worrying about perfection. I’ll also be forced into ignoring those distractions and concentrating on what’s important. Once I’ve completed completed my project I can always edit. Thanks for the post, it’s a good reminder.

  • Marysa Sheren - Fresh Living April 2, 2010, 4:53 am

    Thank you for the reminder that sometimes the biggest impediment to achieving productivity is simply getting started. By letting go of perfectionism, we are already so much closer to our goals. Hopefully, through positive and healthy thought patterns such as those described here, we can find ourselves finishing those projects we thought we’d never tackle and learn firsthand the power of attitude in making things happen.

  • Josh Moore April 2, 2010, 12:33 pm

    Nice post.

    The point on perfection reminds me of something I was once told:

    “Perfection is to be aspired to but never obtained”

    I would probably also add breaking things down to the list. If you have a smaller tasks you can complete them and build your confidence while also completing the task at hand.

  • Meena Bassem April 4, 2010, 1:07 pm

    Thanks alot dude, That was really helpful.

  • Sietse | HowToLiveWow.com April 6, 2010, 12:00 pm

    I’ve had this tendency, not to finish things and to give up easily. As a result, I didn’t get the expected results in many cases. With the one thing I managed to continue, partly applying some of the golden rules you set above, I achieved some form of success!

  • Suvi April 17, 2010, 5:47 am

    Gahhhh, but I think perfection is just an opinion and other’s people’s concept of perfection is different than others.

  • Aida April 27, 2010, 3:15 pm

    You touch on my problem -about finishing what I have started… I am what you exactly described. Oh how I wish, what you suggest I should do will help me finally get over this problem. Thanks again Hendrik.

  • Tim May 2, 2010, 6:53 am

    I totally understanding everything you all are writing about. I know what I need to do but cannot get it done because I feel overwhelmed. It is really difficult for me to commit and finish anything — school, test, you name it. I know I need to take baby steps and do one thing at a time and suggestions are welcomed.

  • Bill June 8, 2010, 6:43 pm

    I’ve had sooo much trouble trying to get stuff done to the point my wife makes fun of me!
    Thanks for the post as I’m always trying to understand why the hell I do what I do!
    Great stuff indeed!


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