Five Tricks to Help You Get Stuff 100% Done

Ever been victim of a time suck?Ever been victim of a time suck?

I was cleaning up my desk, going through the overflowing inbox and assorted piles that had grown tall and unruly over a couple of months.

My work space had been compromised by unattended to dribs and drabs and it was time do something about it. I sorted the piles on my dining table until every paper found its rightful place.

Now, you might think that I felt great by the time it was all done. But you’d be wrong. I was sorely distressed.


Because in those stacks of paper, I found pieces of SIX unfinished projects. I had put lots of time and energy into them, and they were actually pretty good, but they were unfinished.

They were about 85% done. But rather than finishing them, I had put them aside.

They had become a time suck.

15% Undone = 85% Time Wasted

For the first time ever, as I looked at that pile of unfinished projects, I realized how much time I’ve wasted by abandoning projects that are 85% done.

All that time and energy and effort and then… nothing.

2 Reasons projects go unfinished

There are two primary reasons people have trouble finishing things.

  1. For some people, coming up with the ideas is far more fascinating than tying down all of the loose ends and getting the details figured out.
  2. And for many people, sending products out in the world and subjecting them to public scrutiny can be scary, so they put it off.

But it’s also a matter of personality. Some people are great at coming up with ideas and developing them in their early stages.  Other people are better at follow through.

I fall into the first group — great at generating ideas and less good at getting them done.

5 Ways to Stop Yourself from Leaving Projects Unfinished

If you’re like me — a better starter than a finisher — then you may need help, too. Here are the ways I’ve come up with to get things done.

1. Don’t start unless you know WHY you’re doing it.

  • What’s your goal?
  • Does it matter?
  • Is it important?
  • Is it leveraging your time or wasting it?

If you know the goal and the answers to the other three questions are “yes,” then go ahead. If not, ditch it before it becomes a time suck.

2. Create a road map.

Once you decide to move forward, make yourself a road map that shows the project in bite size pieces and map them out on your calendar. Check them off as you finish them. Research shows that the habit of checking things off motivates people to get them done.

3. Get help!

You don’t have to do it all on your own. You can hire someone to do the finishing. That has the added benefit of giving you a deadline, knowing that he or she is waiting for it.

Or, if you can’t hire someone, ask a friend to meet or talk with you regularly about your progress.

4. Imagine your success.

Promise yourself a treat when you get it all done.  (I’ve got an Apple watch in mind! Guess I better get going on one of my unfinished projects!)

5. Plan a celebration.

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate when the project is done. Pick a reasonable date and invite some friends to celebrate with you. It doesn’t have to be fancy — an evening at your favorite restaurant is perfect.

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Discover what motivates YOU to finish

If getting things all the way done is a challenge for you, what do you find most helpful? Think back on the projects you’ve completed. Were there external conditions that forced you to finish? Have you found some other tricks that worked well for you? Would some of my suggestions work?

Make a mental note of the best ways to motivate yourself and take advantage of those tricks to complete your future projects.

Share your suggestions about getting things all the way done in the comments. What works well for you might work great for others, too.

  • Ligia

    Thank you for the tips Andrea. I’m exactly like you: full of great ideas and high level planning and then…. blah, it’s over. Excitement is gone and I’ve moved on to another idea/project.

    What I do with my knitting projects, for instance, is that I don’t start a new project until I finished what I’m working on.
    I also simply take a rest for any project until I’ve recharged my battery and I’m ready to take on something else.

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Hi Ligia,
      Thanks for the comment. I love the idea of simply putting a project aside until you recharge your batteries about it. A sort of intentional set-aside. But not letting yourself start anything else until it’s done. Sounds like a great strategy.