Think of the feeling of when you first started a passion project. When your excitement was through the roof, it was all you could think about and you just wanted to invest all of your time into it. But time and time again, this momentum drops away before you know how to try and keep it up.
The struggle of abandoning projects is a natural one. You find other things taking priority or unforeseen hurdles come up, and you procrastinate. Eventually, you are left with a growing list of unfinished projects and no motivation to complete any of them.
If you need help breaking this cycle, continue reading to learn not only how to finish that long-lost project, but to understand why you abandoned it in the first place and how to avoid doing this again in the future…
5 Ways To Finish Your Project
It’s time to quit the charade. Waiting for the right time or mood won’t work, it will never come.
It’s in our human nature to fall victim to procrastination, but step one to overcoming it means tackling it headfirst.
Be strict with yourself.
What task are you dreading the most?
Get it out of the way and work on that first.
Struggling to dedicate hours and hours to something super time-consuming? Break it up and do it for set periods over a few days.
It is crucial to focus on the doing rather than what you have to do. Just because you are procrastinating doesn’t mean you are lazily sitting on the couch all day, you could just be prioritising low priority tasks and doing a lot of the wrong work.
By being disciplined, biting the bullet and picking up where you left off, you are one step closer to completion.
When it comes to forcing yourself to restart an abandoned project, it’s normal for the work to feel like a chore. But you were once so excited about the prospects of this project, and you need to try and channel those old feelings into your current work ethic.
Remember that this work is a choice, with the goal of bettering either yourself or your business.
Shifting your mindset will help you feel more in control, and help yourself fall back into the momentum faster.
Stop stressing about failure, forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past and don’t obsess about the big picture, if your mind is focused on what you are capable of, you have less time to worry about what you think you can’t achieve.
According to Gloria Mark, Professor at the University of California, Irvine, we are interrupted from working almost once every 3 minutes. What is more concerning is that Mark estimates that around half of these are self-inflicted.
So you can put in all the hard work to physically restart your project, and it can be quickly thrown out the window if you don’t have the right measures in place to avoid distractions.
How you minimise distractions will change depending on what you have to do for your project. A great place to start is your phone. Turning off notifications, blocking social media or turning off your phone altogether can have an amazing effect on your focus. I know what you’re thinking, you can’t afford to do all of these all day every day. There are times when you need to stay available for important calls and emails, or even just in case your family need to be able to get in contact with you easily.
While shutting yourself off from the outside world as much as possible for a few hours a day will quickly boost your productivity for your project, you should simply to aim to cut down on interruptions where you can. You can try blocking out an afternoon once a week or so where you are unavailable for other business or using do not disturb, but avoiding as many interruptions as you can will have the best impact on your workflow.
We also covered distractions and tools to help in our previous article: How to Stay Focused Amongst Chaos.
Building on the last tip, make sure you are working in the most productive environment for you to remove distractions. Figure out what is and is not more conducive to your workflow. Everyone is different. Maybe you find working in absolute silence best, so working home alone or somewhere like a library will help them stay focused. If you have noise-cancelling headphones, these can help on the days where you have to work around others. Or, maybe you prefer working with background noise, so if you’re working from home you might leave on the TV quietly or listen to music. For music, most people agree that instrumental music (especially classical) helps you work the best, but there are lots of focus playlists online for people to find what suits them best. You could also try working in a cafe or co-working office space if you benefit from the energy of other people around you.
Just as you would give your team an incentive to improve their work ethic, you need to ensure you reward yourself for putting in the hard work. Positive reinforcement is great. Treat yourself with food, socialising, an experience, or buying something nice. Make sure that the reward matches the amount of work invested, the bigger the accomplishment you achieved the bigger the reward, but don’t overdo it, rewarding yourself can be a slippery slope to complacency.
You can also implement stricter incentives, by having deadlines, accountability or other commitments to ensure you get your work done.
Having set (S.M.A.R.T) goals and schedules written down, works well as an incentive and the more time-specific they are the better. This encourages you to manage your time more effectively.
A great tool to maximising your focus is the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes then have a 5-minute break, and once you have completed 4 sets of these then you have a longer break between 15 and 30 minutes. This will help you maintain motivation and stay accountable.
Why We Abandon Projects
Understanding why we leave projects can sometimes be harder to wrap our heads around than figuring out how to finish them.
When we start projects, we are filled with adrenaline and our interest is at its peak, so the novelty motivates us through the early stages.
But as we get deeper, the work gets harder, our passion begins to wear off and the project feels burdensome.
When this happens we start to prioritise other things to occupy our time and make excuses of how busy we are to justify slowing down on project work.
Looking back on when you started makes restarting even harder. We idealise the early stages as being so easy and effortless, so in comparison, the idea of finishing the project feels even more distant and difficult to achieve. A big reason behind this is that your initial expectations were too high and they fell apart too quickly. You cannot foresee every obstacle that comes up when doing a project, things take longer, cost more money, or aren’t as enjoyable as we thought they would be. This can be fuelled by perfectionism rather than laziness, as we are afraid of failing to impress others or that all our work will be for nothing.
If this doesn’t resonate with you, maybe it’s possible that you put off finishing the project for the opposite reason, you were enjoying it too much! Some people struggle with the fear of completion because they enjoy the process of working on a project so much that they worry future projects won’t match up and continue to draw things out by procrastinating.
The reasons for abandoning a project are different from person to person, but it’s important to try to understand why you stopped so you can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
How To Avoid This In The Future
- Call Yourself Out: Now you have learned how to finish something and why you stopped in the first place, you need to put this knowledge to good use. List your past projects and try writing when and why you stopped and restarted so you know what to look out for in recognising your patterns
- Research: To avoid setting your standards too high, before you dive into your next project, do more in-depth research while planning to ensure your expectations are more realistic
- Schedule: Also while you are planning your next project, make sure you set up a realistic timeline with clearly defined steps and mini-deadlines to add incentives from the get-go
- Assess Your Motivations: Consider what is driving this next project. Is it coming from a place of passion, will it bring you pleasure? When setting your goals don’t aim for what you think will make your project successful to others, you are putting in the work and you won’t feel rewarded if you aren’t doing this for yourself
- Review Past Projects: Look at why you didn’t finish in the past and put steps in place to avoid making the same mistakes.
Stopping a project is normal, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for it, but we should work towards overcoming our fears and feelings because the finish is worth the effort. This knowledge can also apply to your life beyond finishing a project. Go read that book you bought forever ago that’s just sitting on your shelf. Watch that documentary that’s been in your watchlist for so long. The actual doing is far more rewarding than thinking about doing something is, even if it is a challenge.
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