Crossing the Finish Line

Running a race well is a good thing, but not as good as crossing the finish line. There’s something about finishing – a race, a task, a project, a goal, or anything else – that feels extra satisfying. Plus, it marks a bona fide accomplishment you can remember, perhaps put on your resume, and sometimes point to with pride for the rest of your life.

Even more relevant to the twin topics of productivity and success, crossing the finish line takes something off your “to do” list and also creates an opportunity to move on toward whatever’s next.

Most of us willingly acknowledge that finishing is better than starting. Nevertheless, it’s surprising how many of us leave so many agenda items unfinished – sometimes for days, weeks, months, or even years.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are some suggestions that will help you cross the finish line a lot more often than you may do now:

Identify the Reason

Sometimes – although perhaps less often than you might wish to believe – there are legitimate reasons for leaving an item unfinished. Recognizing and understanding this reason are quite often the first steps on the road to completing the unfinished item.

Some common reasons include:

Your priorities have changed. Changes to what you want to accomplish, and how soon you want to accomplish them, happen all the time as you, your environment, and your goals evolve over time. That’s why it’s important to regularly review your “to do” list and cull the items that no longer deserve your time. Among the items that remain on your list, be ready to rethink them and reshuffle their sequence to better reflect what’s now more important in your work and your life.  

You’re not sure how to move forward. It’s all too common to let a small impediment to one minor task stall progress on a whole important project. To avoid this trap, watch for items that remain on your “to do” list for too long. When you find one, look for ways to plow through it as directly as possible. You can approach seemingly immovable obstacles in various ways, such as:

  • Hire it done.
  • Get one or more people to help you do it.
  • Learn something new that helps you do it yourself.
  • Find or create an alternative way forward.

You can’t do it as well as you’d like. This reason may reflect a practical reality, or it may express your unconscious attitude toward perfectionism. Either way, reconsider your standards and make sure you’re not aiming too high.

You have too much else to do. Items on our “to do” list have a way of accumulating faster than we can complete them. That’s why it’s important that you habitually:

  • Keep track of all the benefits and rewards you’ll likely receive from each item you actually finish.
  • Distinguish between “urgent” and “important” items you want to complete. While you will probably choose to do many of the “urgent” tasks, you’ll help yourself cross the finish line more often if you regularly mix in some of the less urgent but more important tasks, as well.
  • Prioritize your “to do” list intelligently, in light of your important goals, so trivia stops preempting your major items.
  • Avoid distractions and “multi-tasking,” so you can focus more intensely and more often on pushing very next thing you must do until it’s fully across the finish line.

You’re afraid of success (see my previous post: “Kill Your Fear of Success”). Many people have entirely legitimate worries, doubts or fears about the future they are hoping to achieve. But you can take practical steps to overcome such feelings and increase your speed toward crossing the finish line.

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