I’ve observed that one of the biggest challenges to finishing what I start is my time availability.
It’s possible that there are other weak links in my situation or in yours… but it’s interesting how many of those weak links come back to time. We can often expand or work around many other aspects of a project but it’s impossible to get more than 24 hours in a day — and it’s impossible to work 24/7.
Quite simply, I start a project and then run out of time to finish it. It’s as if I start a project with the starry-eyed notion that the only work required is the start-up work and that somehow it takes little or no work to maintain.
These start-up and maintenance activities are being added onto a schedule that is already jam-packed with running a busy writing business and juggling several investments.
To compensate, I try to be more productive with my time. I expand the time I’m working and I try to maximize what I accomplish in those hours. Instead of putting in a good solid 8 hour day, I expand it to 10 or 12 and think I maintain a high level of focus the entire time. It doesn’t happen.
Result? One or more of the following negative consequences occur:
- Existing projects suffer because I’m focused on the new project.
- New projects only get so far and then stop because I do not have the time to continue them.
- I burn out.
- I reach capacity and am only able to do an adequate job on a project rather than a great job.
Deciding to finish something is not just the deferral of starting some else. Rather, it’s the decision to see something through to success while also achieving a “hidden goal” of freeing up my time to start something else.
Time is a finite resource that is kind of like a pipe. If the water going into the pipe is greater than the water coming out then you end up with a potential problem: Higher water pressure that can burst the pipe. The solution is to moderate the amount of water at either end: If I choose to defer starting something, I turn down the amount of water going in on the entrance side. And if I finish more projects, I essentially widen the available pipe on the exit side.
There are, of course, many other things that can be done to address this time availability besides finishing more and starting less. Potentially there are automation opportunities and delegation opportunities — both are worth considering in some cases. But before I get to those, I want to make sure that my own personal mindset is wired toward finishing… because how can I lead a team toward an effective finish if I can’t first bring my own smaller personal projects toward a finish?
Lesson learned: A huge aspect of finishing what I start will be how I use my time. Specifically, I need to monitor how much work I take on for each project and I need to be realistic about how long I think that work will take me to complete it. It wouldn’t be unrealistic for me to double the amount of time I have allotted to each project. If it takes less than that, great. If it takes that long, fine. (I’m aware of the law that says “work expands to the time given” but the opposite is not always true: Work does not always compress to a smaller amount of time.) Doubling the time allotted to each project addresses my excessive optimism at how long I think something will take.