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.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Join the 80,000 people that subscribe to the Positivity Newsletter and you’ll get practical tips on happiness, self-esteem, productivity and more each week.

You’ll also get these three guides for free:

  • 21 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School.
  • 7 Steps to Stop Being So Lazy.
  • 10 Things You Can Do When Life Sucks.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

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 Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I’ve heard a lot people say: i will do it perfectly or i wont do at all. But it is nor right, because really nothing can be perfect.
    Very good idea about limiting e-mail and facebook checking :)

    • Aiming for perfect is the best possible way to get nothing done.

      Good enough is going to be good enough.

  • Great tips!

    I believe the effect of setting a dead line is underestimated and not understood. There are two great triggers for getting goals: go forward to some exciting goal or keep away of not getting the goal, Setting up deadlines helps me away of not getting my goal. It also keeps me focused and prevents me of thinking doing others things.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • k

    Dear Henrik

    Your blog is excellent and very very helpful. I have been having problems focusing on something I need to complete and continue to avoid it as a result of fear of imperfection and “how am i going to start it”. But – it is always on my mind; even at the most inconvenient times, and propels guilt also. So thank you kindly for your message; especially the tips. Its comforting to know that it is something that more than just ourselves may have problems mastering (or not mastering lol). Excellent tips.

    Kind regards

  • Hi Henrik,

    Thanks for sharing..I feel like when I don’t check personal email in the morning, I will be very focused during the day and in the zone…

  • Hi Henrik,
    Something you said is so relevant to me today and I’m glad to hear it from you as well. It’s something that comes even before your 3 points.

    – It’s what you said. that it’s okay to stop reading a book if you think it sucks. For quite a long time I’ve read books right to the end even though i wanted to stop long ago. I now have learnt to stop when a book is boring otherwise it’s just a waste of time. I now forgot about trying to make up for the money I spent on it.

  • thanks for this. I seriously needed it yesterday. I also like that you kept the points to 3 so I didn’t spend so much time procrastinating by reading your blog instead of working on mine. :) Keep that positivity coming – I like your stuff and share/retweet often!

  • A

    I needed this today. Thanks! I am a “perfect polisher” too, and I have to put a time limit on my activities or else I will never be finished with them! And even though it isn’t perfect, it is good enough, and DONE – which feels better than perfection when you have lots to do.

  • Hi Henrik,

    I also like your blog: it is sensible yet cheerful!
    Could someone please help me to focus on stopping my tasks and get some sleep?

  • For me, the toughest thing is going just for “good enough”. I’ve a lesson to learn…

  • Hello again,

    What came to me thinking of your post this morning is a little ditty from Goethe: “Whatever you can do – or dream you can – BEGIN IT! Boldness has genious, power and magic in it!”
    I will start tidying now, thanks.

  • I think it’s important to set a schedule listing all the tasks that need to be done to achieve the goal. When we manage to accomplish each small task on time, we tend to feel less stress. To quote: “How to eat an elephant? one bite at a time.”

  • Lee North London


    I find your tips very useful.

    I run sales & marketing for large a company, have a young family and sometimes need a ‘shot in the arm’ to get things done. Keeping it simple and accepting good enough will help me wonders. I often can’t start a task for fear of not doing it well enough, which leads to procrastination and so on…more tips on motivation and getting things done welcome.. Regards


  • I’m also with the small-is-beautiful ethic Henrik. Little improvements or steps forwards day after day tend to lead to a strong foundation and springboard to everlasting increased level of achievement. Just look at how trees take time to grow and build firm roots. We could do well with learning from nature.

  • Great post, I am so obsessed with completing tasks that I will even force myself to read a crappy book. I think I am going to take you up on your advice here :-)

  • I love it, FOCUS is really a major factor!
    Zero Dramas