How to finish what you start

Being able to finish what you start marks the difference between a dreamer and a doer. If you’re a serial non-finisher, here’s how you can learn to turn that around.

Finishing what you start

If you’re the kind of person who has difficulty finishing things, you probably won’t read this article to the end. You’ll look at this first paragraph, scan through the rest and then your attention will move on to something else.

If you do that, I can’t help you. But if you’re willing to make the effort to read from start to finish, what you learn may change your life. I’ll make this a short, pithy article to help you.

Why people don’t finish things

Some people find it easy to start things but not finish them. Others find it easy to finish things but not start them. Both are forms of procrastination that need to be overcome in order to achieve anything in life.

If you often find it hard to finish things, here’s how to identify the cause and what to do about it. It generally comes down to one or more of these seven issues:

1. Fear of success

Many people don’t realize that fear of success can hold them back as much as fear of failure. If you succeed, you become more visible. People may have higher expectations of you than they did before. Success can also leave you wide open to judgement and criticism. Not finishing things is a way to keep yourself small, invisible and safe.

Antidote: Feel the fear and do it anyway. As Jack Canfield once said, ‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear.’

2. Perfectionism

Perfectionism may seem to be an admirable quality to strive for. However, it can make you your own worst critic and hold you back from achieving anything at all.

Antidote: Remember that done is better than perfect because perfect never gets done.

3. Blank canvas syndrome

Some people delay finishing tasks because they know, consciously or unconsciously, that if they bring themselves up to date with everything they need to do, they will be left with themselves and a scary blank canvas of what to do next.

Antidote: Create an exciting new project you’re really looking forward to. Don’t allow yourself to start it until you’ve finished the ones you’re currently doing. Better still, learn to meditate so that you’ll feel perfectly comfortable just being with yourself and having nothing to do. You’ll even look forward to it.

4. Distractions

Sometimes a task doesn’t get finished because your attention gets pulled elsewhere.

Antidote: Do one task at a time and keep going until it’s done. If it’s a large task, break it down into timeboxes and complete each timebox before moving on.

5. Yak shaving

Yak shaving is any series of unrelated tasks that have to be completed before you can do the job you first set out to do. You can find yourself doing things you never planned to do and never even getting to the task you originally intended.

Antidote: Learn to spot yak shaving whenever it raises its shaggy head. Try to find creative ways around it so that you can stay on track.

6. Taking too much on

If you are prone to taking on more than you can handle, take a good look at why you do this. Do you underestimate how long tasks will take? Do you agree to do things because you’re a people pleaser seeking approval? Do you need to learn how to prioritize?

Antidote: Learn to sometimes say no. Understand that whenever you say yes to something you are saying no to doing something else.

7. You can finish a task by dropping it

You don’t have to finish everything you start. Some things aren’t worth the time or effort it will take you.

Antidote: Many unimportant tasks can be crossed off your To Do list by realizing you do not need to do them.

Other reasons why people don’t finish things

Of course, there are two other possibilities. It may be that you’re just plain lazy or don’t give a darn. However, if that were the case, my guess is you wouldn’t have bothered to read this far.

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2021


Resources
Zero Procrastination online course

Related articles
The art of living with clear space in your home

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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3 Responses to How to finish what you start

  1. Two more critical reasons some people rarely or never finish whatever they start: being deliberately prevented from achieving; and depression.

  2. Can you be both? Because I think I am. I find it both easy to start (some specific things, such as a patchwork quilt) but very hard to finish. But other things (more everyday stuff, like tidying, and, even worse, cleaning, I find almost impossible to start, but if I ever manage to force myself – reasonably easy to finish!
    Anyway, thanks for the article, as always, interesting, and, hopefully, useful!

    1. Yes, you can be both. The most common form of procrastination is starting things. A lesser-known form of procrastination is finishing things, which is why I decided to write an article about it.

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