How many times have you started an exciting new project with the best of intentions only to fizzle out before you ever got the idea fully off the ground?
Frustrating. I know. I’ve been there many times.
It feels terrible when you quit after making significant progress.
You wouldn’t think you’d leave something like that hanging, but you do.
To be clear, for the purposes of this post. I’m talking about self-directed projects. I’m talking about your dream projects. These projects can be challenging for many reasons. They are different than supervised projects at work or raising your kids. I’m talking about projects that require you to figure out what to do and how to do it. Some examples include, but are not limited to: writing a book, completing an online course, starting a YouTube channel, creating sustainable health habits, learning a new language, creating a vegetable garden, or starting a profitable side business.
In general, we tend to suck at these types of projects. Not because we can’t set a decent goal or even put the work in. It’s usually the lack of accountability (no boss to tell us what to do), no tangible consequences (it’s not the end of the world if you never do it), or the follow-through that’s required to get us to the end. These projects tend to result in future success. It’s hard to stay excited about something that you may not finish for days or weeks or even years from now, even when we’re “pumped” to do so.
The problem isn’t just YOU.
The problem is no one told you that you need a strategy to start something from nothing and see it through to the finish line.
I believe that “finishing” is a habit that can be developed. Just like most habits, you need to be intentional and consistent. In other words, you can choose to become good at finishing what you start. Like any skill set, some people are more naturally wired for this, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the discipline and focus required to conquer this “hard skill” that can improve your life and those you love.
There are times you do want to finish what you started. Those great big, interesting goals are the ones that can change lives when you reach them. So how can you act with diligence and get things done even when the world pulls you in so many directions?
These tips can help you form a strategy to help you finish those dream projects that are meaningful and purposeful to you:
Clarify the Vision
It’s impossible to finish anything when you’re not clear what the eventual outcome is. Take the time upfront to examine the project you have in mind. Can you visualize the outcome you want? Getting clear upfront is the best investment in your time, money, and effort.
Once you have a clear idea of where you’re going, ask yourself why you’re doing this. What motivates you? What about this excites you? Hold onto these thoughts, write down your intention and make a verbal commitment. Writing it down and saying it out loud does make a difference!
Design Your Space
Never underestimate the power of the right environment for productivity. Designing an inviting space where the action happens helps to train your brain: “This is where we work”. Wherever you choose to work, make sure you reduce distractions.
Make Temptation Impossible
This is crucial no matter what the goal. If you have a deep work project where your focus is crucial, consider turning off your phone or putting it in a drawer. If you’re working on health-related eating goals, maybe consider a healthy pantry makeover.
Get Organized (But don’t shoot for perfection)
What tools do you need to get started? Now is the time to assemble them. Once you’ve got all of your materials, create a game plan. What’s the goal for today, the week, the month? What do you need to get done for the next milestone? This should be laid out in simple, bite-sized pieces.
Set a Start Work Routine
Say a prayer. Light a candle. Listen to calming music. Get a cup of tea (and a biscuit!). Whatever gets you in the right mindset. By creating a “start work routine” before you get to work, you tell your brain you’re ready to work now and get things done. With consistent practice, this routine will become a trigger that puts you in the perfect headspace instantly, which is important in creating consistency.
Start Early (if possible)
If you can, start working on your project as early in the day as possible. Studies have shown an earlier start to the day can be crucial to success. This is important even if you’re not a ‘morning’ person. Why? The longer you wait to start your day, the more likely you are to put off beginning until tomorrow. Also, if you jump in early, you’re going to feel amazingly productive by lunch.
Just do it
Once you have everything in place, start without thinking about it if you can. Too often, we stall out because we don’t “feel” ready. Once you’ve organized your materials or workspace, there’s no point in holding back. Go for it.
Blast Through for Five Minutes
Tell yourself you’re just going to test the waters and throw yourself in wholeheartedly for five minutes. You have a plan. All you need is to work it!
Don’t multitask when you plunge into this project. Put all your energy, and attention, and focus on what you’re doing.
Enter the Flow State
Have you ever been in a flow state before? “According to an article in the Very Well Mind: Flow is a state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity. Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as a state of complete immersion in an activity. Being immersed can be defined as a state of focus in which a person is completely absorbed and engrossed in their work..” Sink into it and enjoy the sensation of everything coming together while the outside world melts away.
Keep the Momentum
No matter what, try to hold your momentum even if you don’t have a solid flow state. Forward progress is still progress, no matter how slow. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Set a Quitting Time
Don’t work endlessly. To avoid burnout, know when you are finished for the day. Otherwise, you’ll crash and burn, making it harder to pick up again the next day.
Set Up for the Next Day’s Success
How do you want to begin tomorrow? For example, some writers will write the first sentence of the next chapter before quitting for the day so they can jump right in without resistance. What would help you? Layout your workout clothes, clean up your desk, set out materials, and do whatever you need for a successful start the next time you settle into work.
Believe In Yourself
As you keep working, remember this one very important truth: You have everything you need to succeed. The very fact you’re working to achieve your dreams makes you amazing.
You’ve got this!
Be well + prosper,
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