I’m doing a lot of thinking about how to finish what you start — about how I (and probably many others) do a good job at starting something but not necessarily finishing.
I want to change how I finish things and I’m sharing my journey because I think other people may want the same thing.
So what are the skills that a good finisher has? That’s what I want to explore in this blog post. I’ll probably be generalizing a bit because not all projects require every single one of these finishing skills but in general most of these projects do.
To help me create this list, I am thinking of two people I know and have worked with who I have seen finish projects and finish them very, very well. I am thinking about the times that we have worked on projects together and what they did to bring those projects to completion and what skills I saw them bring to bear.
There is a lot of overlap between these. I can’t say that these are all distinct, discrete skills but rather a mix of related qualities. You might even look at this big group of skills and call them (collectively) “project management”. I would agree. If we were to dissect project management, I think these are the parts.
- Resilience. Every project meets challenges but finishers stick with the project even when the challenges seem insurmountable. They don’t let the challenges stop them but rather they deal with the challenges, eliminating them or working around them.
- Perfection. Finishing well requires a certain degree of perfectionism. A good finisher needs to avoid the temptation to just slap a coat of paint over everything and hope it hides the blemishes. Rather, they take the time and focus to correct the blemishes first.
- Consistency. A finisher is consistent. They show up and do the work day in and day out. The finisher keeps going even though things don’t seem to change all that much from one day to the next. It’s as if the work itself is the reward.
- Thrives on detail. When you get to the finish, it really gets down to the details. You aren’t just thinking those sweeping creative thoughts; you are now in the weeds, tackling the small stuff. You’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
- Focused/Delays the reward. The finisher keeps working toward the end of the project because they know the reward will be there. I think this is a big reason why I leave stuff behind because I want the reward, and I feel I get it from starting more often than I think I get it from finishing.
- Has force of will. I’m not sure if this is the right label for what I’m trying to describe but it seems to me that projects become more difficult as they move forward but a good finisher has the force of will to push the project forward in spite of the increasing difficulties.
- Juggle all the parts. Here’s another area where I get hung up. A good finisher can see all the different components of the project, each one presumably moving along at its own pace with its own challenges, and they can see how it will all fit together into one smoothly-operating finished project.
- Organization. Goof finishers, especially ones that follow a pre-defined plan, always seem to be well-organized, maintaining checklists and a project plan throughout the project.
- Fixedness on the goal. This was a late addition to the list but I realized that one area that good finishers have is the ability to remain fixed to the goal. Not just focused to get through the project (which I mentioned above) but rather fixed to the goal. That is, they don’t redefine the goal as the project becomes harder.
I think these are the key qualities of a good finisher, and then you also need to dial in other factors — such as delegation and team management — if you’re working on a larger project.
A COLD HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Okay, confession time… because I’m blogging about this to help me become a better finisher. So what am I lacking?
I can see from this list that I really struggle in a lot of these areas. Yes, I can do some of them because I do indeed finish some projects (even if I don’t finish as many projects as I would like).
I was going to list the above skills in order of my best to my worst but honestly I can’t. I see glimpses of success in these but overall, not enough to call it “my best”. Truthfully, I am not happy with my performance in any of these areas. (For what it’s worth, I do okay at consistency in other areas of my life, thanks in no small part to Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct, which I consider to be one of the 10 business books that changed my life).
In some ways, I am lacking these skills because I’m not wired for them. (As mentioned in a previous blog, I tend to do well with the big creative stuff). But also, I just haven’t had as much of a chance to practice these skills because I tend to focus on the start. So I get this feedback loop that rewards starting and stunts the growth of my finishing.
HONING THESE SKILLS
I believe these skills are learnable. I think I have seen these skills in my life now and then. But now I need to focus on developing them and growing them and making the work for me. In the projects I am currently trying to finish, I will specifically work on using these goals to help me finish well.