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What if you aren't a finisher? How can you become one?

People close to me used have told me on numerous occasions that I fall into the category of glib-talking, high-flying, never-finishing 'charmers' that the author mentioned in the prose.

It took me a while to understand that my going-off-on-tangents had nothing to do with impatience. It had more to do with me not realizing that the last mile is the hardest. I would start everything with gusto but as soon as I hit a road-block, I would dawdle and eventually lose interest as soon as something new came up.

I now decide a (feasible) finish line in my head before starting a new activity and consciously check myself whenever I feel like I'm about to give up on it. I force myself to look at the finish line until I re-convince myself that I need to cross it before I can even think of giving up.

I am not 'there' yet but I am beginning to see some results and that eggs me on further. :)

Start finishing things. It sounds trite but it's true. Some of the best advice I've ever been given is: the way you do anything is the way you do everything. So, finish the smallest tasks consistently and that will carry over to the bigger tasks.

I really need to work at this. I definitely have always fit the "genius but doesn't finish things" description. I've been working at this hard for 8 years because it really has negatively affected my life. I'm making some progress but it's really slow and if I slack off even a little I tend to lose everything.

It's hard.

Yup, but it's worth it.

Also, allow yourself some blow-out projects. You don't have to finish everything, but you want to become reliable. I.e. if you say you'll do something, then you'll do it.

The old expression "don't bite more than you can chew" epitomizes this. Don't start what you can't finish. It's in deciding what to start and what not to start that you'll make progress.

Read "The Effective Executive" by Peter Drucker, which addresses this in greater detail.

Thanks. I really need to either clear more stuff off my plate or sort out my work situation where I don't have post-workday burnout. Between my job, family commitments and working on my vehicle, I have trouble finding time to start anything now. I get a tremendous amount done when I'm not working.

I either have to settle with how things are now or change the work situation I think. I'll look into that book anyway.

I agree. It's more about developing good habits, so pick a small activity and see it through to the end. Bake a loaf of bread. Take out the garbage. Heck, even deciding you're going to do ten pushups and then doing them can help get you back in a finishing mindset.

A quote I've always liked, from "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard:

"How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives."

I think the fundamental reason of not being finisher may come from several reasons: lack of detailed planning (oh, there's an unanticipated obstacle), lack of energy to finish things, and little barrier of attention shift.

I would say I am not a finisher, but what I am trying to do is reducing these reasons: trying to understand/plan better to the deepest level, sleeping/eating well, getting more satisfaction from finishing things than starting one, and doing smaller things, selectively.

You might want to try, if you haven't already, making public, specific, measurable commitments to have things done by a certain time. Give your word that you'll do something, in a concrete form that people can see failure or success on, to someone whose opinion really matters to you.

I've found that exercising that sort of honesty works very well for me. It's like, if you value your word, (which I do,) then you can leverage it back against yourself when you have to do something difficult.

Don't know if it works that way for everyone who values their word, but it might be worth a go. Might need some fine-running at the start, making tamer goals than you think you can achieve to prevent inadvertently breaking your word.

Depends on why you don't finish things. Often times, it's probably a mental attitude that's a road block.

If you quit when things get hard, maybe you need to realize that hard things are hard. Anything worth finishing will require you to bleed.

If you quit because you have to "feel like it" to work, you should work even when you don't feel like it. Hard things are hard, and nothing would ever get done if people did it only when they felt like it.

There are many reasons why people aren't finishers. You need to find out why, and then figure out similar people that have overcome it and the specific tactics they used to overcome it.

To add to that, this is how I get through the times when I don't "feel like it": I tell myself I'll just sit down and get something done. It doesn't have to be a lot, but I have to sit down and accomplish something. Even just chipping away at small pieces of a task can add up over time!

Take on smaller projects that you can feasibly finish. Finish them. Don't let yourself take on any more large projects until you've built up some track record of finishing small ones.

I teamed up with someone that keeps a very narrow focus to help prevent me wandering off track. Together we have kept very profitably focused for quite a few years now.


What if you aren't a finisher? How can you become one?

I wish I were as good at taking this advice as at giving it.

    1. Lose the fear. (This is the root cause of all the other stuff.) Or, more 
       accurately, experience it but don't give in to it. 
    2. Timebox the work (as reasonably as one can) or limit "one more feature". 
    3. Fail fast, gracefully, and quietly. Learn when to *not* finish. 
       (You shouldn't be finishing *everything* you start. The problem is if 
       you finish *nothing*.)
    4. Succeed decisively but simply (not ornately; don't aim for perfection).

Very good list, out of experience on some fields where I'm considered a talent or natural talent/smart by my peers but I feel like I fail to deliver more than 50% of the times, the first thing you need to do is:

0. Pick up your targets CAREFULLY.

Which means value your energy and time. Be afraid of starting something, stop doing or believing you can do many things at the same time while history clearly shows otherwise is a killer mistake.

Lower the bar, start achieving small things and then, just MAYBE, you should think of adding more.

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