Finish Something

I just started several blog posts, chose a subject, wrote introductory paragraphs, then saved and closed them. For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling the topics at the moment. What I was writing didn’t feel real to me. It felt forced.

So I started this post with the title, “Finish Something.” It’s a note to myself. Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t finish what you started? Even though you know you should?

Getting stuck in a cycle of not finishing isn’t usually a good position to be in. As I’ve mentioned before, I was once in a cycle of starting a new blog and then ending it before it even had a chance to gain traction. Some of it was lack of motivation. Some of it was fear.

In my professional career I’d often get bored with a project and would start a new one. Before I knew it, I’d have ten projects going with no end in sight for any of them. Eventually, I’d get to a point where I’d have to say to myself, “Finish something.”

WHY GETTING STARTED IS THE EASY PART

I’ve acknowledged my own struggles with starting. So why am I saying that starting is the easy part? Because we ourselves turn starting into such a challenge. Along with starting comes a lot of commitment that we aren’t ready for. If we tell others what we’re going to do, it could lead to embarrassment and that strikes us with fear. We may doubt if we’re good enough to do what we intend.

But none of that has anything to do with starting. That’s all the stuff that comes along with the middle. Starting is actually really easy.

Example: I want to learn to fly an airplane. Well, I can look up flight schools online and sign up. If I’m not ready for that because I don’t have the money, I can start saving. Some may argue that I haven’t started to learn to fly an airplane until I attend the first class, but I’d challenge that. I say you start the moment you take the first step, no matter how easy that step may be.

THE MIDDLE IS WHERE IT STARTS TO GET DIFFICULT

The middle can be the hardest part of any commitment or plan. That is where the real work must get done. The initial excitement has worn off. That usually happens much faster than we expect. We start to see success, but we also see the setbacks. The cheerleaders who encouraged us at the beginning of our journey have disappeared and we feel all alone. If we’re on a team, none of them seem as enthusiastic and we start to have doubts.

In his book, The Messy Middle, Scott Belsky promotes the need for both endurance and optimization. These two characteristics are needed to navigate through the middle of a venture. Having highs and lows throughout a project is not the best formula for success. Highs feel good and may spur us on, but any low can derail us to the point where we never get back on track. In addition to cultivating endurance, we need to optimize our work so that we don’t hit lows that could ruin our progress. Lows can be missed deadlines, failed attempts, and criticism from others.

WHY FINISHING SOMETHING CAN BE EASY OR HARD

Finishing happens in many different ways. Sometimes finishing involves reaching a goal and then the task is over. That’s a relatively easy ending, especially if one was making steady progress toward the goal all along. If there are clear metrics, it’s easy to identify whether the goal has been met or not.

But sometimes finishing can be much harder because it involves a more subjective decision. The reason for this may be that specific metrics are not available. Perhaps circumstances changed and decisions had to be made on the fly.

Say a startup has a goal to grow their business to a certain valuation and then position themselves to be acquired. They reach the goal of their supposed valuation and put themselves on the market. But no one’s interested. Well, what do they do? Do they keep growing, raising more capital, and increase their valuation further? Do they lower their price? Finishing isn’t quite so easy now.

Or maybe that same company receives an offer while growing to the amount they wish to be valued. Do they say that the current offer is good enough, sell, and move on to the next venture? Would that be quitting and never finishing? Or would it be finishing under a new set of circumstances? A debate could be held with strong arguments from both sides.

HOW TO FINISH

Few of us are probably going to have to decide when to finish working on our startup. But now that we understand why finishing can be such a hard thing to do, we can begin to figure out how to make ourselves do it.

Time Blocking

With time blocking, you commit to working on a project or goal for a set amount of time. No matter what happens or how you feel, you work on that goal. You’re encouraged by knowing when you’ll be able to take a break or work on something else, but you trudge on and do the work.

Find Your Why

Michael Hyatt makes this statement all the time. He bases this teaching on a quote his wife says, “People lose their way when they lose their why.” Think back to the reasons why you started working on this goal in the first place.

One Thing at a Time

When we’re bored with a project or we reach some sort of obstacle, we may look for a distraction. I used to start a new project, or I’d switch to another ongoing project. This just results in more and more not getting done either.

Set a Deadline

Sometimes you could work on a project long after it should have been done. Certain projects allow for it. If an artist is painting a landscape, they may reach a point where many others would say that the work is complete. But they continue to make minor changes, a brush stroke here or there. Maybe you’re developing a new product and have been working on the finishing touches longer than was spent on the creation of the product. Set a deadline and deliver. Set a deadline and say it’s done.

Quit

You may just need to quit. The act of finishing the goal by completing it has the possibility of eclipsing the benefits of actually reaching the goal. If you hate the project and don’t see how any value could come from accomplishing the goal, give yourself permission to quit. Not doing so is like fighting your way through a book to reach the ending even though you don’t care what happens anymore.

What are you trying to finish? Are you caught in the messy middle? Share what’s going on with you in the comments below.

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