I always have ideas bubbling in my head. I get them down on paper. I sort through them. I start a bunch. I finish much less than I start.
I’m okay with that to some degree because I believe everything in business is a test. You need to get something out into the world and see what happens. Maybe people run with it. Maybe they don’t. You need to try. The stuff that gets a lot of attention can give you enough juice to finish it. And the stuff that doesn’t get a lot of attention should be wrapped up (or shelved and looked at later if conditions change).
But then there’s a whooooole bunch of stuff in the middle. Maybe the market liked it (but didn’t love it) and you need to tweak it a bit to really get some traction. Or maybe it was a big project that was put aside because something else appeared on the horizon that needed to be dealt with… and then you just never picked up the first project.
In my opinion, it’s okay to start a bunch of stuff and see what sticks. But I also want to finish a lot more than I do. If you’re reading this, maybe you do too.
I’m an entrepreneur. I think that makes me a great starter by default. That’s my natural state. What I want to do is ALSO become a great finisher. Here are the qualities that a great finisher has, plus notes on how to implement them (or how I’ve implemented them). This list isn’t definitive and some of the qualities overlap or are subordinate.
But the best part? I believe they’re all LEARNED skills. And I want to learn them. (By the way, if I’m missing any qualities you think I should add, please include them in the comments section below.
QUALITIES OF A GREAT FINISHER
An effective finisher fights through procrastination: I think procrastination comes from two things — a desire to avoid the hard work that lies ahead and a “Shiny New Object” syndrome where something newer and more exciting seems more interesting. Each one is very powerful on its own, but together they are an almost unstoppable force. The biggest challenge for me is that I don’t procrastinate by doing some hobby or leisure activity. I procrastinate by doing different work. So I end up fooling myself into thinking I’m productive when I’m really just being productive on the wrong things. To correct this, I need to constantly go back and revisit the things I’ve committed to and prioritize them, and assign some projects as “must-do-now” and other projects as rewards for completion.
An effective finisher breaks big projects into smaller ones: This has been really helpful for me. By breaking big projects into smaller ones, I get the joy of “starting” several new projects that call contribute to the big, overall one. So a big, daunting book becomes 16 smaller, easier-to-start chapter-projects (for example).
An effective finisher seeks accountability: Early in my days as a writer, one of the best ways that I got client work done was to offer a guarantee: The work was free if I didn’t deliver it on time. I’ve stopped offering that (mostly because my business has changed and I do far less client work now, and it’s a lot more collaborative). So I’ve had to find other outlets for accountability. This blog series is one of them.
An effective finisher acts: Action is the opposite of procrastination. So a finisher overcomes procrastination (see my earlier point) with focused action that moves toward the goal. (Anything else is just a new kind of procrastination). A finisher who acts is an action figure!
An effective finisher is not distracted: I tend to think of procrastination as intentional and distraction as unintentional. With procrastination, I choose not to work on something because I want to work on something else instead. With distraction, some other matter needs my attention first. I might be splitting hairs on this but I find that I, personally, need to fight both. The solution to both is focus.
An effective finisher is focused on the goal: This is key. Because anything less than moving toward the finished product or end goal is either intentional procrastination or unintentional distraction. I should also point out that the goal here should be the ultimate completion of the project. Any lesser goal is not sufficient. I’ll give you an example that frequently appears in my life: In writing a book, my goal is to finish the book. But after the grind starts to grind me down, my goal becomes “finish the first draft”. And when that’s done, I’m worn out to complete the rest of the project — the second, third, fourth, (etc.) drafts required to complete the book.
An effective finisher does the hardest things first: I don’t know if this is an actual quality that great finishers have but it’s a quality that I *think* they have. It’s a quality that I aspire to possess and I try to model it. I am at my most productive and focused early in the day so it makes sense to do it. What I really need to guard against (and perhaps you do, too, if you struggling with finishing) is dealing with the urgent issues in the morning and letting that define how you spend the rest of your day.
An effective finisher is consistent: Good finishers are consistent. They show up and hammer out the work day-in and day-out until the project is done. Starters tend to spike. Finishers plod through. Both are good but I trend towards the first and need to have more of the second.
An effective finisher sweats the details: I think one of the reasons that starters struggle is that they get excited about the big, positive, undefined stuff but once the details start coming up, it becomes a challenge. I’m learning to embrace details. A few years ago, I worked on a huge project with a guy who was great in the details and although he doesn’t know it, I learned so much from him about managing the details. I still use elements in my work today that I learned from him years ago.
An effective finisher is rewarded by the process and by a sense of completion: This was a big “aha!” moment for me. I feel rewarded when I start something and I feel rewarded when I complete something. But where I really need to do some work is in feeling rewarded by the process. The process CAN be fun. But it’s all up to you to make it enjoyable for yourself. Many of the projects I’ve had to stop working on were not fun. In retrospect, could I have made them fun? I don’t know. Lesson learned.
Can you list any other qualities that finishers have, which starters could do a better job adopting? Put them in the comments!
THE FINISH-WHAT-YOU-START CHALLENGE
In a previous blog post, I introduced a finish-what-you-start challenge. I listed 14 projects I have to complete in the next 10 days and I’m sharing them here with you. I’ve crossed them off as I go through them.
The projects I’m working on are…
- Finish an ebook for a real estate investor about investing in empty land
- Finish an ebook for a real estate investor about wholesale investing
- Finish an ebook for a real estate investor about marketing system
- Finish an ebook for a real estate investor about a real estate investing method he pioneered
Finish a book for a debt repair expert
- Finish a sales letter for an internet marketing company
Finish a sales letter for a health and fitness company
Finish a sales letter for a social media marketing firm
- Finish 100 articles for an income trust client
- ((Rescheduled by client: Finish a report and autoresponders for video marketing site))
So I’ve finished 3 (indicated by the crossed off projects) and one of them was rescheduled by a client (indicated by the parentheses). I put some work in on a couple of the others… and I hate to admit it but some of them weren’t touched.
It’s easy for me to make excuses — I have other projects to complete in order to run my business, I’m renovating my house, my wife is starting a business. But what can I learn about what I finished and what I didn’t finish? Well, it reveals one key that I need to remember: I say yes to a lot of work and I tend to work until I burn out. That’s a problem I need to address. I also did procrastinate and I was distracted. That’s a problem I need to address.
Now it’s time for me to stop blogging and finish these projects!!!