I used to be a chronic project starter but I never learned how to finish a project.
I would get really excited about something and put a lot of time into starting it and then I’d have another brilliant idea for a project, which I would start with enthusiasm and then slowly abandon.
Does that sound familiar?
When I read this post at By Regina it finally made sense to me why I do this (and why you might too).
Regina calls it “creative flex”. You see, we creative types need to flex our creative muscles regularly to feel really fulfilled. Regina says that when we abandon projects it’s because they are not the right fit or are becoming stale. That’s when creative flex makes us get super excited about another project.
However, I feel like there is one other reason that projects get started and not finished and that is that we aren’t following through and doing the nitty gritty work.
You know the saying about being “an idea man” (or woman)? Well, the thing is I am an idea woman. I love coming up with ideas and dreaming about things but have a hard time following through sometimes. But idea people aren’t very successful. It’s the doers in the world that become successful. That’s why I’m trying to become more of a doer.
How to finish a project: Evaluate why you’re not progressing on your project
Are you bored? Does this project need to be revamped to fit with your intentions? Is this project something better handed off to someone else?
After reading what Regina wrote about creative flex I realized that when I begin channeling my creative energy into a new project it usually means what I was working on previously was getting stale, boring, or just needed to change with how I change.
Now when I feel the desire to start a new project I write it down for the future and then ask myself “why is this current project boring me?”.
Sometimes it’s just that I’m feeling lazy and I need to recommit to doing all of the work, even the boring parts. Other times it’s that I’ve chosen a project that doesn’t fit with where I am in my life.
This technique helps keep me out of creative ruts too by forcing me to stretch outside my comfort zone when I realize my project needs a face lift.
How to finish a project: Stick with a not great idea
One reason that I don’t finish projects is that at some point in the process I think of another possibility that is better or a different angle that is more interesting.
I have realized that it is much better to have one finished product that is good (or just ok) than 10 unfinished products that are brilliant. Usually, at the end of it the project I’ve stuck with is still pretty awesome.
I also believe that sometimes I don’t finish a project because I come to a difficult and not-so-much fun part of the project. Making it a rule to stick with something through the end can help me push through the parts that are not as much fun but are necessary.
How to finish a project: Make a plan
It’s overwhelming to be looking at a project in the face and have no idea how you are going to accomplish something so huge. By breaking it down into small attainable goals it is much easier to make progress and to stay motivated.
With a series of smaller goals I get to feel accomplishment after each step is completed and that keeps me motivated.
I typically use google sheets to organize my goals. I first start with my larger goal, like putting in raised beds, then break it down into smaller goals and tasks, like saving to purchase the soil and wood, building the boxes, filling them and choosing what to plant.
How to finish a project: Stick to one project at a time
Only having one project going at a time allows me not to feel overwhelmed because I don’t have half finished projects laying around. Instead, I have only one and it’s continuously progressing toward completion which keeps me motivated and interested.
It’s also a great ego boost to be able to see the fruits of your labor. When we built our first chicken coop we focused all of our time and effort on getting it done and specifically avoided adding any other large projects to our list.
How to finish a project: Tell someone
You can tell your spouse, your mom or your co-worker about your intentions, just tell someone. They can keep you accountable to what you’ve said you would do.
Another reason to tell someone about your goal is to send it out into the universe. It’s amazing how things can start happening when you just admit that you want it. I want to learn how to knit this winter. There. Ask me how I’m doing with it in a few weeks :)
If you’re able to find someone who is tackling the same goal or project you may benefit even more. You can help each other, support each other and keep each other motivated.
How to finish a project: Take a break when you need to
Build breaks into your plan, if necessary. Being burnt out won’t help you finish what you’ve started and might actually do the opposite. Walking away from a project is a great way to reflect and problem solve.
So much thinking and problem solving goes on in our brains when we are not actively trying to figure out a solution. Give yourself some time and space to breathe. Go for a walk, sleep on it and come back fresh and ready to keep working.
What are your tricks for getting projects done?