6 Ways to Finish Your Projects

I often work on many projects at once. Finishing a project gives me great pleasure- I like to look at it, talk about it, and feel the sense of accomplishment that is nearly analogous to a runner’s high. But getting there takes some practice at the skill of Finishing Stuff.

Universally, it is recognized that the last 10% of the project is 90% of the work. I’d say that the first third of the project is 2% of the work. Can someone do the curve and put it in the comments?

Why is it so tough to finish projects and so easy to start them? Starting is easy, involving large portions of researching, discussion and shopping. These tasks don’t actually involve producing any results but they feel as though something has been accomplished. Making something out of nothing, to design something or to build something where it wasn’t in existence before is HARD. If you’re not used to feeling the sense of accomplishment, you don’t know how much you’re missing to want to feel it badly enough.

I think that finishing projects is a learned skill which provides the experience (or foresight) to know how long something will take once you dream it up. The skill of Finishing Stuff is complemented by the skill of knowing when not to get started on something because it’s a time-suck, impossible or too expensive.
Obtaining the skill of Finishing Stuff takes practice.

Here are some ways to practice that elusive skill:

1. Make a decision to stop being an anal perfectionist.
You can lose a ridiculous amount of time going from red to blue and back again. Tweaking this and tweaking that keeps you in the 50% done phase. It also tricks you out of having to think too hard about solving the next problem.

2. Don’t add tentacles (bells and whistles) to your Revision 1 project. Unnecessarily adding tentacles to your projects will make them unwieldy and unmanageable, causing the project to sit in the garage gathering cobwebs.

3. Kill your wireless and put caution tape across your kitchen door. AKA No Distractions. Leaving your email, Facebook, Twitter etc. on while you’re trying to move forward is just plainly, a bad decision. How can you get anything done if your internet life is beeping or blinking at you. It takes the average person some time to get their brain back on track after an interruption, and YOU ARE NO EXCEPTION. And don’t interrupt yourself because you’re hungry or need to do dishes. Finding oneself in the kitchen staring into the white light is also not productive. Caution tape.

4. Practice working your way through problems. You can’t hit the problem wall and just…delay. When you get to a stopping place because you don’t know what to do, do something. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone, ask a forum, ask Google, ask your tea leaves, experiment.

5. Set a deadline that’s two weeks from now.
When you have a deadline that’s too far away, it’s easy to wait until the last minute. Then you have no time and the project doesn’t get done. Break the project up into 2 week doable sized pieces.

6. KISSS keep it simple simple simple.
Don’t pick 10 projects that aren’t doable and buy parts for all of them. Pick something challenging you know you can do and tackle it. Don’t wake up one Saturday and decide to build a small shed on your property…alone….and find that you don’t have the time, money or skill set to finish it. Know yourself better than that.

The way to get good at something, good enough where it becomes second nature, is to do it over and over again until you have mastered that skill. To be the person who Finishes Stuff you have to practice being that person. If you finish a few projects, chances are that you’ll never want to leave something undone again.

Comments please! Do you finish stuff or do you typically have projects undone? Or are you somewhere in the middle?

11 responses to “6 Ways to Finish Your Projects”

  1. Jeff Keegan

    Excellent!

  2. Stanley Lee
  3. Lex

    Hi Sophi great post! I agree – leave the tentacles and perfectionism for later and just get something done. I often think of parts of project as level 1, level 2, level 3, etc. I try to get only the essentially functionality done in level 1, and store all the cool extras (what if it were wireless? what if it lit up and made noise?) for level 2, 3, and beyond.

    1. Prashanth

      I agree :)

  4. Prashanth

    The post is very practical. It opened my eyes. Thanks.

  5. Uros

    My name is Uros Gavrilović  and I am a student of Passaic County Technical Institute located in Wayneyear program called Project Lead the Way (PLTW). PLTW is a nationally funded program whose curriculum prepares students with the foundations of engineering by providing coursework that utilizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The program’s main goal is to recruit students into a career in one of the many fields of engineering by using hands-on activities for motivation.

               This year I am taking the junior level course called Principles of Engineering (POE) where one of our first assignments is to conduct a personal interview with a professional in the field of engineering, engineering technology, or another high-tech, high-demand field. I was wondering if you can take some time from your busy schedule to assist me by using you as the contact for my assignment. If you give me consent, I would need you to provide me some information on your professional background and then anwser a few questions regarding your work experience and also your contact information.

    Contact Info
    Job Title:
    Company Name & Address(Full mailing):
    E-mail Address:
    Company Website:
    Company Phone:
    Personal Phone(If you give consent):
    Degree/Certification (include school or institution name):

    Interview Questions
    Please describe your (present or past) engineering field.
    What is your current job title?
    Please describe your particular job and duties.
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    Starting with high school, describe your educational background chronologically.
    If you had to do it over, related to your career or education, would you do anything differently?
    What advice would you give me as someone interested in pursuing a career path similar to yours?

    I really appreciate the time you have given me and I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

  6. Hung Kieu

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  8. Russ

    It is very easy to come up with ideas but much more difficult to execute them. Throughout my engineering career I have seen hundreds of projects which have never been completed or been shut down halfway through. I have also seen a lot of projects which were ‘completed’ but broke down within a year or two. Executing a project to a certain standard is extremely important.

  9. Melissa

    I enjoyed this post so much! I hope you don’t mind that I shared it on the TechXchange forums: http://www.digikey.com/techxchange/message/6155

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