Top Reasons We Don’t Finish: A Guide to Completing Important Projects

Finish line

The most exciting time is usually when we get to work on something we really want to do. It can be a bit scary, but it’s also fun. We can’t wait to get cracking. So we plunge into it, feeling wonderful.

As time goes by, we lose some of our enthusiasm, then dread sets in, and before too long, we stop.

And the longer it takes us to get back into it, the more impossible it seems that we can finish.

I wrote more than a few weeks back about wanting to simplify my finances. I’m still working on this project after a few stops and delays along the way.

The purpose of this article is to share with you a process for understanding and dealing with the obstacles that can deter us from completing what we start.

Why do we stop before we finish?

There are many reasons that can keep us from completing an important project. Today I’ll highlight the main ones I’ve been dealing with.

You may find more reasons, but the main factors usually have to do with time, energy, and the inner thought process about what we’re doing.

Underestimating how long it takes

Even if we plan properly for a project, it usually ends up taking more time and energy than anticipated. We start with gusto, and lots of energy to keep going …  for a while. As time goes by our enthusiasm starts to wane and it becomes harder to keep moving forward.

The bigger the project the harder it is to fully estimate how long it will take.

Take my example of trying to put my finances in order. I thought it was a six-day project. Right now I’m on week two and it’s not half done. I’ve made noticeable progress but it’s not enough. This can be discouraging.

Not factoring in interruptions

When we first start on a big project we allow ourselves to dive straight into it, which is great. However, as time goes by, life happens and we’re required to stop and deal with other things.

The interruptions can and will slow you down. It is frustrating.

You might also have other incomplete projects that you put on the side to start this one. Anything that is parked in the back of your mind will resurface at one point or another nagging and demanding your attention.

Lack of clarity about the details of what it takes to complete

The bigger the project the harder it is to be clear about everything you need to do when you start. And that’s expected.

If you’re not prepared for uncertainty though, you might feel confused and unmotivated to keep going.

Self doubt

When we start a project we feel good, but when we start facing obstacles and uncertainty, doubt sets in. And then it becomes a battle.

Your conscious actions are based on your desire to work on this project or task. But your subconscious protective mind starts spewing all sorts of doubts and limiting beliefs about your abilities to deal with it.

This is where self-sabotage resides. It’s when we start thinking: this is so hard; I can’t do it. Or I hate this; it’s not fun anymore.

The reason it’s not fun is because you feel conflicted, part of you wants to keep going, and another part wants you to stop and give up.

Inconsistent or infrequent effort

Regardless of what it is to you want to accomplish, if you don’t do it on a regular basis (preferably daily), you will not get the results you hope for and you will eventually stop—before completing the project.

I stopped working on the finance project for a few days and had a heck of a time picking up again. I had to go back and remind myself of where I stopped.

The longer you stop, the harder it is to motivate yourself to start again. You will find other things to occupy your time; the project eventually gets tucked away in some corner of your mind.

How to complete your project

The steps that you need to take are designed to address the issues mentioned above.

Estimate more time.

In my example it’s probably going to take me 6 weeks instead of 6 days to complete organizing all of my finances in a way that is satisfactory to me.

Whether you want to learn a new skill or organize part of your home, give yourself more time to do it. The added time covers interruptions, both expected and unexpected or steps you didn’t factor in beforehand.

Stick to one priority and let the rest go.

If you take on something while you have other incomplete projects, make peace with it and work on the one selected now. When the nagging thoughts about completing other things resurface, remind yourself that you made an agreement with yourself to work only on this project for now.

Allocate part of your working hours at the end of each day for urgent tasks and interruptions.

Unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t get sucked into doing these things before working on your important project.

Work on your project daily.

It’s better to put in 15 minutes a day than to plug in 2 hours at the end of the week. The longer you stop the harder it will be to remember where you stopped and what you need to do.

The 2-hour block once a week can be useful for tasks that will be completely done. For example, cleaning your home. For projects and tasks that take more than a few hours, it’s better to do them in small regular chunks.

A short work session is easier to start and complete. When you work on your project on a regular basis, it becomes part of your daily routine. At one point you will want to start automatically—and that’s a great place to be.

Trust in your abilities and seek reinforcements.

When paralyzed with doubt, remind yourself that you have gone that far in the project and you can complete it if you stick with it.

It is helpful to ask a close family member or friend for support. Talk to him or her about your doubts and what you have accomplished so far. Sometimes we get lost in the details and need someone on the outside to give us perspective and remind us of our abilities.

Accept lack of clarity when it comes to details, but be very clear about your final outcome.

The bigger the project the more unclear you will be about how to complete it.

Learning to accept ambiguity as part of the journey gives you peace. As long as you feel you’re making progress, the next step will show up when the time comes.

If you feel stuck and don’t know what to do next, start with the first thing that comes to mind.

For example, right now I’m working on the investment part of my finances, when I started I had an idea of what I wanted to see at the end of the process. Some of the steps are coming along without prior planning, just based on what I did in the step before.

You only need to be clear about one thing—your final destination or target. If you don’t know that point, you’ll never get there. Meaning, you’ll never finish this project.

You will meander throughout the journey in ways you didn’t anticipate, and that’s okay as long as you keep going till you reach your desired outcome.

Nothing feels as good as a job well done—completely done. When you finish a project, you release all the thoughts and anxiety about getting it done. You create space for what is yet to come and free yourself to pursue a new adventure.

And the best part is: it’s in your hands. You can finish anything you start—if you choose to.