December 5, 2022

How To Finish

How do we finish projects since anything unfinished is clutter? With 2022 coming to an end lets focus to finish things and not drag clutter to the new year

What you'll discover 

Some people have a hard time starting something, but more often than not we are great at starting but not so great at finishing.

But finishing is important, because as you might remember the third category of clutter is unfinished things and with 2022 coming to an end a good approach is to finish things up so we don't drag them into the new year.

We all had before that feeling of relief when we finally finished something that was laying around unfinished and tripped us up over and over in our days. Unfinished things can trip us up physically because for example we haven't finished organizing something and now we have to again search for what we're looking for.

But more importantly it can also trip us up mentally because when ever we work on something in the background of our mind we have this long list of other things that we still have to do too

Science came to the conclusion, that we remember uncompleted goals and projects way better than completed ones. Our minds inability to let something go, that feeling that something unfinished is eating away at you, pulling you down and might even keep you stuck. And if we have a lot of unfinished projects, not finishing something is no longer just a possibility when you start something new, it becomes your identity, and that's a terrible feeling.

We all have unfinished things 

the question is, how do we handle those things. The first thing we need to do is make a decision whether or not we are going to finish these things. Sometimes we start something and then realize it's not for us, or it's not as helpful as we thought, or it doesn't have priority right now.

If that's the case we can also intentionally decide to not finish something. But of course then we have to really make this decision, feel good about it and let go of the project, or eCourse, or Book, or what ever it is that we decide we don't finish.

Often time the decision is that you do want to finish it because it has priority or because it's important, how do we do that. Well in the business book club that I belong to - Thought Readers by Lisa Larter - we read the book Finish by Jon Acuff and he shared some great ideas and concepts in this book. 

I will of course only be able to give you a eagle eye overview, best is if you want to finish things to go get his book and really read it. But so here are his tips on how to finish

Kick perfectionism in the butt

Jon begins his book telling us how in spring 2016, Mike Peasley, a researcher from the University of Memphis studied the people who were enrolled in his goal setting course. The researcher wanted to analyze what worked and what didn't, who finished the course and who didn't so he studied 850 participants.

The outcome of this study is, what causes people to increase their progress dramatically and to finish something is when they take the pressure off,

Those participants that could let go the crippling perfectionism that caused them to quit their goals. So the less that people aimed for perfect, the more productive they became.

But just like me you might have grown up with the saying: “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.” The problem with that is, you most likely end up doing nothing

So step one If you want to finish something you have to get rid of perfectionism and you have to develop tolerance for imperfection. This is the key factor if you want to turn your chronic starter self into a consistent finisher. Understanding that the opposite of perfect is not failure but being a finisher.

This is why I say 'a few minutes a day keep the chaos away' because we can handle a few minutes of clearing clutter and getting organized on a regular basis so much better than trying to be perfect and create the perfect environment, the perfect habits, the perfect systems and processes, that we then try to keep up with and can't so we quit. But if we just focus on doing something, even if it's not perfect, even if it's just for a few minutes, even if we feel that doesn't count, we are still making progress and can become finishers.

Chunk it Down Smaller

the next insight that comes from science is that especially chronic starters overestimate what they can accomplish in a given period of time. When they fail to hit the massive goal, it leads to discouragement, which results in them quitting and never finishing.

I have talked about that here on the blog and podcast too and it's actually number 1 of my 3 key principles for successful decluttering, that we need to chunk down, that we need to cut our goals or projects in half because we most likely are overestimating what we can accomplished.

Many people start out very motivated and want to organize their entire office in one swoop just to crash and burn after 2 hours, not finishing their re-organization project and having more chaos now than they had before.

If you chunk the areas down and actually stop working on it before you're completely exhausted and can't continue and build a lot of resistance to continue on it you make progress. So instead of wanting to re-organize your whole office, or your entire filing system, or all your finances, pick just one drawer, one shelf, or one month of your finances. Pick on purpose something that you feel is too small, not enough, not making a difference but then actually do it. This gives you a win, a good feeling, then you do it again another small bit, and then another, and before you know it your done with the project.

Ignore noble obstacles

This is about how we invent noble obstacles as reasons why we can't finish something. It's perfection trying to creep back in.

A noble obstacle is an attempt to make our goal harder than it has to be so we don’t have to finish, but can still look respectable in our own eyes.

But as I mentioned earlier, our mind remembers things we didn't finish so much better and it bogs us down, it's very heavy and uses a lot of energy.
Noble obstacles are for example: 

  • I can’t do X until Y  --> I hear that a lot, I have to wait until I have time, but we never just have time, we need to make time for something
  • if... then  --> John says we know we are using if..then as a noble obstacle if we only give us two extreme options, like it has to be perfect or we might as well quit.
  • telling ourself it's too hard --> the next time we work on a goal or project Jon dares us to ask the following questions during the middle of the project:
    • Could things be easier?
    • Could things be simpler?
  • there is no time or we missed the best time  

Other tips in his book are

  • decide what to be not good at while finishing a project. You don’t just give time to something, you take it from something else. To be good at one thing you have to be bad at something else, to finish one project you might have to decide to not finish another, or to finish it later not at the same time. But perfectionism of course tells us, I can do it all but then we can’t.
  • make it fun if you want it doneHe makes the point that fun counts, many of us might think if we have fun doing something it doesn't count as success, because success has to be hard earned. He says we think for it to count we have to be miserable and a fun goal doesn't count. But the opposite is true
  • get rid of your secret rules. We all have some secret rules that make it really difficult for us to finish things, for example, "If it doesn’t come easily, it’s not worth doing.” which actually contradicts the rule that fun goals don't count, but that's how sneaky our mind is. So get rid of all these rules that keep you from finishing. 

The last tip I like the best: we need to celebrate your imperfect progress. I love how Jon says: Progress is quiet. It whispers. Perfectionism screams failure and hides progress. 

How we can celebrate progress is to remember that It’s a lot more encouraging to look at where we are coming from than where we’re going (so backward instead of forward) when we are still in the middle of a goal or project because the finish line feels too far away to provide any boost or motivation. 

This only changes when we’re closer to the finish line. He suggests only once we’re about 80 or 85 percent done with a project can seeing the final stretch motivate us and propel us forward, 

So lets summarize:

  • let go of perfectionism
  • chunk it down, cut it in half
  • don't fall for noble obstacles
  • decide you can't do it all
  • make it fun
  • get rid of secret rules
  • and celebrate your progress

And that my friend is exactly how we reach any goal and finish any project which includes of course any decluttering or organizing goal and project. 

Opportunities to work with me 1-1 are available. Send me an email at conny 'at' connygraf dot com or schedule a complimentary Chaos to Peace Consultation and we'll see if working together is a great fit.

Don't worry, I'll never be pushy or talk you into hiring me. 


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