How to Get Shit Done - Part IV - Starter or Finisher?
“Creative success means balancing your love of starting things with a habit of finishing them.” ―Marie Forleo
Wooooooo, we made it, the last post in the series! To be real, it's a miracle this post is even getting published. Because, as evidenced by my google drive graveyard of abandoned blog posts (not only were they never published…I never even finished setting up the blog!) and other projects, I’m not a finisher. Seriously, I go back through my Google drive sometimes and I’m like, this stuff is great! Why has this document been sitting here untouched since 2013? But I know why. It’s me. Although starting can sometimes feel intimidating or overwhelming, where I really hit the tire spikes is knowing I have to put the final polish on a thing and call it “good enough”. Um, no thanks – I’m already working on the next project I’ll never finish!
The question here is, do you have more trouble starting a task, or finishing one? Do you get so excited about the next thing that you abandon what you’ve already started before it’s done? Or do you tend to procrastinate and fail to even get started?
If you can’t get started:
Is it fear that’s stopping you? Does your brain chime in with helpful tidbits like “that’s already been done” and “that’s a stupid idea anyway” every time you come up with a new idea?
Our mind’s job is to keep us safe. The mind’s assessment of starting a new, unknown thing? Pretty much always: unsafe.
Start to recognize that this is just your brain doing it’s job. Thank it for trying to keep you safe and let it know it’s not needed in this case. Thanks but no thanks, Tammy. (Or whatever you choose to call your overthinking brain).
One of my very favorite sayings is:
To face the thing I fear, that is the death of fear.
The fear is almost always way bigger than the thing itself. So, a task you haven’t started feels big and scary. Once you’ve started, you’ll probably find it’s not that bad. That’s why you gotta get started.
Schedule a short period of time – say 15 minutes – and commit to getting some ideas down on paper. Know that you don’t have to produce any good work during this time. You’re just dumping your ideas. You’ll come back and make it good later. Remind yourself you can do anything for 15 minutes. Eliminate distractions. Start a timer. And get it done – for 15 minutes.
After the timer goes off, if you want to keep going, then do! If that was hard enough, pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with some healthy self-care or treat.
If you’ve tried this and it doesn’t work, think about what you might be missing.
Can you ask someone for a pep talk?
Do you need to process out loud with someone before putting anything down on paper?
Can you do some power poses or a dance sesh to get in the mood?
If you can’t finish:
Fear can also be behind the fear of finishing things. If “finished” means “perfect” in your mind, then that’s going to be hard to attain, so why even try? An applicable quote here:
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
The most successful entrepreneurs out there live by the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) rule. Don’t wait to put your work out into the world until it’s completely finished and you’re sure it will be a success. Put it out there as soon as its good enough. Good enough as in it provides value. Set the bar there, instead of setting the bar at, this will be done when it’s the best dog-grooming guide ever created, with the perfect picture for each step, providing specific info on each individual breed, with all new information no one has ever heard before.
Put that MVP out there as soon as possible and start getting real-world feedback. Revise and reiterate based on what you’ve learned.
It’s better to have something done and out in the world than to have 26 amazing but only 95% finished versions in your saved folder.
Another important factor is timeline. Science shows that a project will expand or contract to take up as much time as you allocate for it. So set a deadline. Get outside accountability to enforce the deadline if you need it. Know that missing the deadline is not an option.
Finally, commit to continuing to make progress in small chunks until you’re done. Schedule 20 minutes with no distraction to work on revising what you’ve gotten and getting it closer to done. Repeat as needed.
Tricks to get started:
Accountability - tell someone you are going to spend 15 min on the thing at __time and that you will text them when you start and when you finish.
Set the expectation that the first draft will not be good.
Start it first thing in the morning so you can cross it off your list.
Start before you’re ready.
Remember that doing a thing [badly] is the best way to learn
Don’t wait until you have all the information before starting. Start, and then gather the information you’re missing as you go.
Make it easy to start. Commit to working on it for 15 minutes at first.
Make the first step a very shitty rough draft.
Know that thinking about a thing is not action.
Create a starting ritual
Tricks to finish:
Lower your expectations. Try to create a minimum viable product
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
Accountability - set a launch date and tell someone (or better yet, your online followers) to expect it on that date.
Remember you can always come back and revise it later if needed
Ask yourself whether the real problem may be that you’re afraid of putting this thing out into the world.
Remember that “done is better than perfect”
Set the finish line at “minimum viable product”
Continue to work on the project in fixed increments
Set a deadline (and external accountability if needed)
Think of who you could help with what you’re making, and try to get it into their hands as soon as possible
Partner withsomeone – can you have someone else edit your work, give you feedback, or do the design or formatting step that’s needed to finish?
My biggest roadblock is ____________ (starting or finishing)
What project would have the most impact in your life if you started it or finished it?
What can you commit to doing this week to get started or get finished?
What reminder can you post somewhere you’ll see every day to push past the starting/finishing block next time?
Blog: 3 Steps to Beat the Fear of Getting Started
Blog: Productivity Personas – Are You a Starter or a Finisher?
Blog: I Was A Great Starter and A Horrible Finisher… Here’s How I Fixed It
What kinds of things have you tried to get started or finished? What worked for you? Share below so we can all benefit from your experience!
Download the full free e-book, How to Trick Yourself Into Getting Shit Done here:
How to Get Shit Done - Part I - The Four Tendencies
How to Get Shit Done - Part II - Morning or Night Person?
How to Get Shit Done - Part III - Enneagram