Many of us are good at starting things, but pretty bad at finishing them! The main reason for this is procrastination. This happens for a variety of reasons like a preference for doing something more pleasurable or feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to proceed. Even perfectionists don’t always finish what they started if they believe they don’t have the capacity to do it perfectly!
“One of the really interesting things about procrastination is that people do it despite knowing or expecting to be worse off for doing so,” says Psychologist, Claire Newton. There seems to be a struggle between knowing what we should do versus what we actually want to do. For example, we know we should lose weight but want to eat junk food. Similarly, we know we should work late to finish a project, but want to go out with friends instead. Claire says this battle will only be won once we recognise the irrefutable truth that ‘want’ never goes away! “We will always want to do nicer things, the more fun things, the things that don’t stress us out or take too much of our time and energy. We procrastinate because we choose ‘want’ over ‘should’,” says Claire.
Elaine Harmon, creator and owner of The Time Clinic, a training course designed to assist companies, individuals and students with time management, procrastination and self-mastery issues, also points towards procrastination as a reason why we don’t finish what we start. She notes that it can happen halfway into a task and not just in the beginning! “What happens is we get started, but during the process of engaging with the task, we develop negative emotions surrounding it. Instead of dealing with the emotions and making the choice to not allow them to rule us, we make the mistake to avoid the task when it is actually our own emotions surrounding the task that we are avoiding,” says Elaine.
Tools for Success
Here’s how to see projects through from beginning to the end:
1. Prioritise tasks and apply time management
When working on large projects, work out how long each step of the process will take, and allocate time accordingly. This ensures the project becomes manageable in ‘bite-size’ tasks, making it less overwhelming and easier to complete on time. This is a great way to tackle weight loss goals as well. Break-up your weight loss into mini goals. For example, if you have 20kg to lose, set a mini-goal for every five kilograms and reward yourself when you reach each milestone. This makes losing weight less daunting, more manageable and acts as a motivational tool.
2. Make notes and to-do lists
You may think that you have an excellent memory, but when stress sets in, it‘s easy to forget things and panic sets in. “Make a list of everything you have to do each day. Put the most important tasks at the top of the list and do them first,” says Claire.
3. Get a fresh perspective
If you begin a task and your interest gradually wanes, think about the emotions you are experiencing and if they could be contributing to your state of mind. “When you find yourself avoiding that unfinished task, ask yourself if it is the task that you are avoiding or the emotions surrounding the task? When you realise that it’s actually emotional ‘stuff’, its much easier to take a deep breath, put that ‘stuff’ aside and face the task with a fresh perspective,” says Elaine.
4. Get organised
Disorganisation is a primary reason for not finishing what you start. Here, people tend to have chaotic schedules with little planning and time management. Tasks end up piling up and become urgent at the last minute, while current projects get pushed aside. Also, there is no time to breakdown projects, as mentioned above, and it becomes unnecessarily difficult to complete a task in one hasty go.
5. Is it relevant?
If you are struggling with motivation for a task or project, ask yourself if it is really necessary? Perhaps it holds no value anymore or it may need to be tweaked and replaced with a more relevant task. Furthermore, learn to identify the difference between obligations and options.
6. Ask for help!
Don’t try to tackle large projects on your own. Weight loss is an excellent case in point. Studies prove that people who join weight loss programmes like Weigh-Less that offer Group motivation and support, fare far better than those who attempt to lose weight alone. With Weigh-Less, Members are never alone. In addition to weekly Group meetings and access to our Group Leaders, Members can stay in contact with each other and visit our website or read our magazine for further motivation.
7. Try and try again!
And finally, don’t allow a history of blunders stop you from trying again. Put these tools into practice when approaching your next project or weight loss goal and don’t allow negative thinking to set in. Sometimes, the best motivation only comes after you have started. “The good news is that human beings are capable of change and I have to say I am constantly in awe of our brain’s ability to form new neural pathways, and our incredible potential as human beings to achieve just about anything we set our minds to. Just because you did not finish tasks in the past, does not mean you are someone who does not finish tasks. Today is a new day, so go forth and reinvent yourself!” says Elaine.
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it" ~ Olin Miller
Why it’s important to finish what you start
Learning to finish what you started is an important life skill for professional and personal success. Even if the end result is not exactly what you planned, by seeing something through to the end, you build strength, character and ambition, while delivering an ever-important sense of purpose. Remember, winners never quit and quitters never win!
Sources: Claire Newton; Elaine Harmon