How to Get All the Way to Done

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task”
William James

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.”
David Allen

Simply getting started and taking action instead sitting around and discussing things or theorizing about them is one of the most common things that are stopping people from improving their lives.

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 couple of good solutions that help me. Today I would like to share 3 of them.

But first, just be careful with what tasks you aim to get done. Don’t think you have to finish everything you started. If a book sucks, read something else. Using this as an excuse to quit something that feels hard or unfamiliar is not a good idea. But there is no law that says that everything has to be completed.

Go for good enough.

One pretty big issue for me in the past was that I wanted to polish everything until it was “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.

Last year I set a deadline for when my second e-book 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 part of the work and was done with it.

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

Use limits and rituals to keep your focus during the home stretch.

The last part of a project or a task can often feel pretty hard and it is 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.

I limit my own checking of email, Facebook, blog statistics etc. to one ritual at the end of my workday where I just string all the checking together into one 20-30 minute session. This allows me to get the creative parts and the most important tasks of the day done early in the day when I am rested and focused and it prevents me from getting lost in everything else.

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.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • That last bit of a project is always the most challenging! It’s smart to limit email, social networks and other distractions. Tough but necessary.

  • Henrik,

    Walking away (having a break) is also a good way to finish your tasks.

    When you do this, you get your brains recharged with creative energy and you are motivated to finish the task you were working on.


  • I definitely know how it feels to know you don’t have enough time to finish things. When being meticulous is part of who you are, finding time to “polish” the tasks you care most about can be stressful. The information in this post was really helpful!

  • Kristen B.

    I like your post because you provide so much insights on how am I going to increase my focus on my priorities. Perhaps I should give myself deadlines so that I could motivate myself in focusing on my work instead of distractions. I should also learn how to limit my checking of social networking sites to increase my work productivity.

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  • Gosh, on this grey day with lots to do, maybe I am with Timo – a holiday sounds good! Then again, it is more to organise ;-)
    Sometimes it would be nice if we could delegate some of the more tedious, time-consuming tasks, so that one can focus on the really juicy ones…

  • I always set a daily work goal and then let myself stop when I’ve completed it. That way I don’t get burned out.