How to Finish Projects and Set Them Free

A problem I struggled with everyday (and still do) is following through and finishing projects. I have hundreds of ideas for business and marketing strategies, art projects, companies – I get excited, start working on them, and then promptly relegate them to another day (that never comes). While this makes me feel busy and productive, I don’t actually accomplish anything and the ideas stay in my head, never seeing the real world. Over time I’ve learned what causes me not to finish things and how to build in mechanisms to get the work done and out. Here is how.

Narrow Your Focus

Trying to do too many things at once is the best way to not do anything. Write all your ideas down but pick only a few to work on at any single moment. For me the magic number is around three projects – granted they are in very different areas and clearly defined. Put all your time into those few things, only once they’re done or have become habitual should you consider starting something new.

Do It While It’s Fresh

This is more for business development ideas such as marketing efforts, meetings, pitches, etc. Often I would do a bit of something – make a list, find a few people’s emails, etc. Then, for whatever reason, I would put off continuing on to do the actual work. The key is to quickly push yourself to a point of commitment – get those emails out, schedule an meeting, order those promos, more on this in the next section.

Mechanisms for Completion

The best way to ensure you finish work is to build in mechanisms for completion right into the projects.

Make Commitments – Creating commitments for the future puts pressure on you to get things done. Booking several portraits means it’s harder to put off building your portfolio. Asking colleague to look over your mailer means you have to finish it before you meet. Consistently make commitments for each stage of your project so that it moves along at an even pace.

Create Small Wins – A big reason for abandoning projects is getting burnt out. Celebrating small wins helps keep you motivated. This could mean making a few prints as you are still shooting for your portfolio. Posting parts of your new project on Facebook so that your friends can comment (Facebook comments are pretty much always positive). Also, reward yourself when you reach checkpoints in the project – site launches, interviews, blog features – you deserve it.

Invest Money – Injecting money into a project is a great motivator to keep working on it and the more you spend the better it works. If you’re building a website, buy a domain and hosting at the start. If you’re working on your portfolio, buy a high end portfolio case. If you want to get better at marketing, buy a book or invest in a course. It’s hard to justify dropping a project and working on another one if you’ve just spent your savings on it.

Action Steps:

Figure out which two projects are your most important. Implement at least two of the mechanisms above into your work outlines for them.


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