Don’t let your projects fizzle… #FinishWhatYouStart

I’m talking about how easy it is to start things and how much harder it can be to finish them.

So if we’re going to talk about finishing what we start, I think we need to put down some definitions. What do I mean when I talk about finishing? What is a good finish?

THE FINISH

A finished project is one that starts with an end in mind (I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming blog post) and ultimately draws to a conclusion within a certain time period.

But a finish doesn’t have to be a SUCCESSFUL finish.

Ideally, you start a project and you finish it well, achieving or exceeding the goals you wanted to achieve when you started. But you can still finish a project that does not meet the goals you started out with.

A finish doesn’t necessarily mean a successful finish. Rather, “finishing” measures effort and intentionality and ultimately a specific end.

So if you have a project that you start but part way through you discover that it is not working out the way you hoped, you can still finish — you just need to adjust the course. Obviously you prefer a successful finish but an unsuccessful finish can be an acceptable finish because, in both cases, you choose to conclude the project. So a finish, as I define it, is the intentional conclusion of a project.

My focus on finishing for the next quarter is to achieve one of these good finishes instead of the alternative…

THE FIZZLE (“NON-FINISHES”)

This is when you start a project but then you lose interest or your attention or resources are diverted elsewhere. This can happen for a variety of reasons but the end is ultimately the same: The project just fades from memory and enters a kind of holding pattern. A non-finish, therefore, is when a project just fizzles out without your intentional conclusion the project.

A lot of my projects do this. They get back-burnered or side-tracked or placed into a holding pattern and it might be days or weeks or months (ugh… or even years) until I get back to them. This is ultimately what I want to change — to avoid the fizzle and to bring more projects to a conclusion.

IT GETS TRICKY

Finish and Fizzle are two project states but it gets tricky. Some projects are ongoing projects, so how do you “finish” those? And some projects might seem to have the potential to be an unsuccessful finish but if you just extend the deadline or make some changes, it can become a successful finish, so are you actually “finishing” by doing that?

I have a book that has been started and needs to be finished. It has a very definite finish (measured by publication). And, I have a brand that has been started and needs to be built up so it earns an income. Even though one is a project with a pre-defined end and the other is a project without a pre-defined end, they are both wallowing in neglect and I think they can both be moved forward with skills that are not starting skills but rather finishing skills.

With the defined-ending projects, it’s easier to measure the finish. With an undefined-ending project, perhaps I need to specify a finish for a particular stage of the project. So in the case of the ongoing brand project, perhaps I need to specify my first “finish” as “build the brand so that it earns its first dollar of income”. Then I can start a new project around a new goal to bring that project to the next stage.

I’ll be using these definitions for the rest of my #FinishWhatYouStart blog posts.

Starting stuff is fun… but you need to #FinishWhatYouStart

I love starting things. Books, ebooks, projects, brands, ventures, joint ventures, whatever. I’ve got a million and one things on the go at all times — some of it is my work, some of it is my clients’ work.

I love to start things…

… but I don’t always finish those things.

Starting seems easy and fun. Finishing seems hard. Both are skills but (at least for me) finishing is a skill that I have not perfected.

THE START-TO-FINISH RATIO

I think it’s good to try and finish what you start BUT I don’t think there is anything wrong with starting a lot of things and finishing only some of those things. That’s the “shotgun approach” where you shoot out a lot of ideas and some of them will hit the target and some won’t… but at least you hit the target with some of them. Lots of people and businesses do that. (I’ve written before that starting things is a great productivity hack).

So it’s okay to have an imbalance between your starting and finishing ratio — lots of projects are started, some projects are finished (successfully or unsuccessfully) and some projects are just left out in the cold. No big deal.

But I have a problem…

MY START-TO-FINISH RATIO IS DRAMATICALLY IMBALANCED. WHAT ABOUT YOURS?

I have to admit that my starting-to-finishing ratio is VERY imbalanced: I start a lot of things and I finish only a few things… far less than I should. I create projects constantly — for myself and for my clients — but only a portion of them ever see the light of day and learn to walk on their own. A bunch of them end up in the dusty recesses of my Incubate file (GTD in Evernote FTW!), tagged with an “I need to do something about this someday” tag.

It’s okay to have an imbalance but the imbalance shouldn’t be huge. Sadly, my start-to-finish ratio is dramatically imbalanced.

… And maybe it’s the same for you. I don’t think I’m alone in this problem. I think many people start stuff and they don’t finish those things, and yet perhaps we could all probably put in a bit of effort to try and finish a bit better than we do.

So for the next quarter (October 1 through December 31st), I’m going to focus on finishing. A lot of my blog posts (but not all of them) will be about ideas, tips, and strategies to help you #FinishWhatYouStart, and I’ll share my own attempts and exasperations in trying to finish what I start. I’m doing this to force myself to study finishing and as a sort of accountability to publicly share how it’s going.

I have a bunch of projects on the go. I’ve identified 20 of them and I’m going to try and finish them by the end of the year. Some are my projects, some are client’s projects. I’ll give weekly/occasional reports on how I’m doing and I invite you to join in: Identify and finish some of those lingering projects that you really want to cross off of your list.

Of course I’ll still need to start things; of course I have other things going on… I am running a business here and I can’t neglect the other stuff. But I want to be more intentional in how I move projects forward toward a conclusion, and I have a bunch of stuff that I really really really want to finish.

I WANT TO BE A FINISHER

I have lots of projects but I don’t want to be just someone who starts them and then leaves them to fend for themselves. I want to finish them. I want to become known as a finisher — as someone who can create a project and then see it through to a (hopefully successfully) conclusion.

This last quarter of the year is the perfect time to work on my finishing skills. So let’s get finishing! :)