Here’s what I believe about starting and finishing #FinishWhatYouStart

Here’s what I believe about starting and finishing.

It’s good to start things. You should start a lot of things. Starting things is fun and, if you’re wired that way you shouldn’t stop.

And, once started, it’s okay if not all of those things see the light of day. Over time, you’ll drop some stuff, you’ll forget some stuff, you’ll let some stuff fall to the side. That’s okay.

BUT…

You need to try to get more of those things to a finish. Sure, you don’t have to let all of them get to a finish. But you need to take a look at what you are starting and what you are finishing and you need to decide how to bring more of those things further along.

And, you need to get better and purposely stopping things rather than just letting them fizzle out.

You need to start well, with a good plan, and plenty of contingencies forecasted. You need to move forward, stepping up your game as the project becomes harder and harder to accomplish. And you need to become addicted to the finish and embrace the feeling you get when a project wraps up successfully.

Make stuff. Do stuff. Build stuff. Have fun doing it. And try to finish what you start more often.

My final #FinishWhatYouStart update

I’ve been blogging the past couple of months about my need to do a better job of finishing what I start, and I’ve been sharing candidly about the successes and struggles I’m having as I work through a list of of projects.

Here’s my final update in the #FinishWhatYouStart blog post series.

  1. I will have developed a strategy for one of my brands (which I started up a year and a half ago but it stalled out and has a couple of false starts since but no real progress).Update: Done!
  2. I will have published 100 articles. Update: Not done.
  3. I will be doing 3-set high-intensity circuit-training workouts 6 times a week with 30 pound weights. (I keep getting stuck at 3 circuits with 20 pound weights or 2 circuits with 30 pound weights). Update: Not done.
  4. I will have finished putting together my US corporation (which has been a long and painful process to set up since I live in Canada). Update: Done!
  5. I will have completed a copywriting course. (I’m always taking courses to improve my skills and I’m currently taking one on copywriting, which I started last year but which has stalled). Update: Close to being done.
  6. I will have published my Sales Funnel Bible book (which I finished writing in the spring but the editing has stalled). Update: Not done.
  7. I will have finished the first draft of a book I’m co-writing with a friend of mine (which is actually going well but is right at the precipice of falling into an abyss of delay!) Update: Done!
  8. I will be marketing each week to a joint venture list and earning a minimum amount of weekly income from that effort (which is something I’ve been doing off and on with mixed success for the past couple of years but which I’d like to have consistent income from). Update: Done!
  9. I will finish deploying a new brand that I’ve just started. (See? not everything is stalled. I want this one to do well before I let it crash!) Update: Done!
  10. I will develop a plan for an internet television brand I put together a couple of years ago (which I put aside for a while to focus on my Sales Funnel Bible book). Update: Done!
  11. I will drywall and paint the recroom in my basement and install a bar (which is something that I’ve be ready to do since the summer but haven’t got around to yet). Update: Not done.
  12. I will have finished a client’s book (which we’ve been planning to write for a while!). Update: Done!
  13. I will finish a year’s worth of newsletters for a real estate investor (which we’re in the process of doing — everything is going well there. Again, I don’t want to let it fall). Update: Not done.
  14. I will finish a book for a real estate investor (which, again, is going okay so far, although the timeline is starting to alarm me). Update: Not done.
  15. I will have a plan in place to start marketing one of my brands (which is going well but I’d like to push it forward more). Update: Done!
  16. I will have a plan in place to take one of my brands to a new level (which has done well but I want to take it in a new direction). Update: Done!
  17. Proprietary project #1. Update: Not done.
  18. Proprietary project #2. Update: Not done.
  19. Proprietary project #3. Update: Not done.
  20. Proprietary project #4. Update: Done!

Overall: 10/20 have been completely finished. A couple more are close. Three are nowhere near being done.

6 ways that optimism screws up your project #FinishWhatYouStart

It’s easy to start projects, it’s much harder to finish what you start.

So I’ve been exploring how to start well and finish well… and how to overcome the obstacles in between.

One of the things that can screw up your ability to finish well is your start. You need to start smart if you’re going to see a project all the way through to the finish. Unfortunately, an optimistic start is not always a good start.

As an optimist, I love seeing the glass as half full but that optimism makes it difficult for me to start in a way that improves my ability to finish. Your optimism misleads you.

Here’s how optimism can hurt your project:

  1. Optimism can convince you that the project, as you envision it, will be an immediate success. In reality, projects can take a lot of work to get through.
  2. Optimism can convince you that no additional work will be required above the original plan. In reality, most projects require additional work to augment the original plan because things change and because projects can require more work than initially thought.
  3. Optimism can convince you that nothing unexpected will arise to create more work or reduce the time allotted. In reality, unexpected things arise in projects and they change things — sometimes dramatically — requiring you to adjust your course.
  4. Optimism can convince you that the project will hold my attention all the way through to the end. In reality, as things become difficult, new projects can tempt you away from sticking to the original plan.
  5. That the my original scope was 100% accurate. In reality, the scope of a project can change (whether or not you want it to!).
  6. That all risks have been mitigated. In reality, you can only foresee some risks. Other risks are ignored, underestimated, or just remain invisible until they become problems.

I love being an optimist but it sometimes messes with project plans. The best course of action is to embrace your optimism as fuel to get you started but to also dial in a healthy dose of realism to ensure that your project is more accurately planned.

#FinishWhatYouStart case study

A few months ago, I started a huge project with a client. The experience nicely coincided with my blogging about finishing what I start, so a lot of what I’ve been learning is feeding the project and vice versa.

From October through the middle of December I wrote furiously to create my part of the project. And then, in the middle of December, we hit the hard part. The project will be complete in mid January but for now, we’re in that part that I’ve been writing about — the point in which the baton is passed from start to finish, when the easy starting stuff is being replaced by the hard finishing stuff.

It’s actually the reason why I haven’t been blogging as regularly for the past couple of weeks: Because my client’s project went from being filled with fun starting activities to being filled with arduous push-through-the-middle-toward-the-finish activities. I’m NOT complaining. It’s been great for me to apply the skills I’ve been writing about.

Last week, in fact, was the most difficult of the project yet. I worked LONG hours doing very detailed work that was not always fun. There were many times when my frustration level rose and I wished I was done. There were even a few times when I almost quit. But what kept me in the game was my desire to see the project through to success.

And I’m glad I did. The project isn’t done yet but the hardest part is. There will still be challenges but the hardest part is over and things will get easier as they move forward.

Here are some tips that I learned while working through this hardest part of the project:

  • When the project moves from fun/easy/starting toward the finish, it becomes very detailed. The details suddenly matter. The details can kill the project or make it successful.
  • There is a light at the end of the tunnel even though it doesn’t always feel like it.
  • Take the time to be patient and exacting. It’s worth it. If you don’t take the time, you’ll have to do it over again.
  • Don’t go through it alone. If at all possible, find allies who can help you.
  • Laugh a little.
  • The longer this tough part lasts, the more willpower is needed to even just get out of bed. So make sure that you’re prepared.
  • This part of the project requires sacrifice. Your perception of the end result (when the project is finished) will determine whether you’re willing to pay the sacrifice right now.
  • Chances are, your life isn’t entirely made up of this project. Somehow you have to find time to think about all the other things.

Friday and Saturday were the worst. By yesterday (Sunday) I was absolutely exhausted, feeling sick, and decidedly UNfestive. But I kept pushing because by Sunday at 1PM I had completed everything I needed to do for this part of the project… at least for now. I can put this massive project on hold over the holiday season and pick it up again in January, rested and ready to push more.

The end-states of the finish #FinishWhatYouStart

Projects are easy to start but not all of them are shepherded through to a finish. Some fizzle and are left out in the cold to die. I want to see more of my projects end successfully rather than fizzle so I’ve been thinking about the possible end-states of the finish.

What are all the possible ways that a project can “end” successfully? Here are some ideas I’ve sketched out. These are in no particular order:

  • Goals surpassed.
  • Goals achieved.
  • The project is complete (i.e. there are no more project activities to perform).
  • The project has reached a state of critical mass, and the potential exists to grow or maintain the project with continued activity.
  • The project failed.

Maybe there are more but these seem to be the ones I encounter most often. (And as I re-read the list, I wonder if some of them overlap). I call all of these a “finish” or an “end” because you get to the point in the project’s timeline when you reach one of these and you make the choice about what to do next.

Even project failure is a type of “successful” finish (in that it is an end-state that you have reached by the end of your project timeline, and now you have the choice to do something about it or to kill it and go on to something else). Compare this with the problem of not finishing, which means that you start something and then let it fizzle — perhaps because the effort became too mundane or because you allowed adversity to overwhelm the project… so the project doesn’t really end but it also doesn’t really go anywhere at all.

So I guess an end-state is a point in time that you have worked towards your goal and now you can evaluate where you are and decide what to do next. (While an unsuccessful project is one where you don’t have that at all).

Let’s look at each of these end-states:

Goals surpassed. Great! Congratulations on achieving this rare level of success. You set goals on your project and you have blown past them. This is really exciting. Now it’s time to think about setting new goals — stretching goals — and work toward those.

Goals achieved. This is a very good end. Something you can be proud of. Not all projects get here and you have worked hard to get to this point. Now it’s time to think about what’s next. If there is still some opportunity to pursue in this project then go for it!

The project is complete (i.e. there are no more project activities to perform.). Sometimes a project doesn’t have a life beyond the project timeline. When you finish raking the leaves on your lawn, you’re done. There aren’t more to do (unless you want to come over to my house to do it). You can be proud of your finish because you completed the effort and there is no more to do.

The project has reached a state of critical mass, and the potential exists to grow or maintain the project with continued activity. This is an end-state for ongoing projects — like a blog, for example. When starting your project, you should create a goal. It shouldn’t be something like “I’m going to start a blog” but rather something like “I’m going to start a blog and write 25 blog posts and then measure my traffic results.” Once you reach that critical mass, your project is done… even if the thing you’ve built has more work to be done. Getting to this point is still a successful “finish”, even if it’s kind of a milestone rather than an actual end to the project.

The project failed. I still call this a finish because at least you got to the point in your project timeline where you could assess what you’ve done and then decide what to do next. There is nothing wrong with failure. But as someone who starts a lot and doesn’t finish enough, I’d rather fail at this point than to fail because I didn’t do enough to move a project forward.

THINKING ABOUT YOUR END-STATES BEFORE THE PROJECT STARTS

Don’t wait until your project is nearing the end to think about these end-states. Think about them ahead of time… before you even start the project.

Set goals for your project and then think about what each of these end-states would look like. And start thinking about what you’ll do in case you reach each of these end-states. For example, if your project surpasses your goals, does that mean you should find a way to move forward? Or, if your project fails, does that mean you should end the project or should you try something different?

Create a simple chart for your project with the relevant potential endings on them, and some notes about what you should do if that happens.

Finishing. It’s all about getting to an end state where you can choose what to do next with your project.