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.