If you’re like most people, you probably made new years “resolutions,” or set goals for things that you wish to accomplish or change in 2016. Let me ask you, how’s that going for you? Are you still on track or have you lost your momentum?
The beginning of any adventure is usually full of excitement and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t always last. Statistically speaking, when it comes to new years resolutions, most people are great starters, but unfortunately, poor finishers? It’s a common ailment that many of us in leadership positions have to navigate on a regular basis, both within ourselves and our teams.
Part of being a successful leader is learning how to finish things. It’s part strategy and part grit. There are always a few sticking points to endure and overcome. Life can’t be all fun and games.
Here are a few strategies designed to help you develop the habit of being a great finisher:
1. Begin With the End In Mind. If you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s time tested best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” then you will recognize habit No. 2 – Begin With the End in Mind. This simply means that you must take the time to visualize what you expect the result or outcome to be. When you have a clear mental picture of your intended end result, it makes it easier to remind yourself how great you’ll feel when you’re done. One of the best ways to do this is to put pen to paper and make note of all the benefits you’re receive in the end.
2. Know Your P.O.B. Take an honest look at your past so that you can discover your P.O.B. (pattern of behavior). This will help you to have a better understanding of what triggers your desire to quit. At what point during a project or goal are you most likely to become overwhelmed or distracted and choose to throw in the towel? Can you think of a strategy that would make it easier to get through those times? Is there a way to avoid or delegate the situations or tasks that create the desire to quit?
3. Inspect What You Expect. Have realistic expectations. If you didn’t start playing piano at a young age and practiced for several thousand hours before your 18th birthday, it’s unlikely you’ll ever reach the level of a world-class pianist. This is especially true if you’re 48 years old, have a family, and only have 30 minutes a day to practice.
4. Be Mindful of Your Time. Getting caught up in too many meaningless projects won’t improve your ability to finish things; therefore we must use intention and wisdom when doling out our time. Create the habit of limiting yourself to investing your time in only those things that are of passionate interest to you. Life is too short for hobbies, relationships or careers that make you want to take off down the street screaming and running. If you’re passionate about something, you’re much more likely to see it through to the end.
5. Keep Track of Your Progress. When you can visually see how much progress you’ve made, you’ll feel more motivated to continue. Make a chart, graph, or other visual representation of the work you’ve completed. After you’ve make a little progress, revisit your expectations and adjust them accordingly.
While it’s admirable to strive for perfection, be careful.
You’ll always quit if perfection is the only acceptable outcome.
Have realistic expectations for your situation.
6. Commit to a realistic timetable. Do you have a history of thinking that things will take less time than they actually do? You might be making good progress, but if you believed that you should’ve mastered the Russian language in just a few short months, you’ll become discouraged. It’s not easy to estimate the amount of time it will take to complete or accomplish certain goals, so I suggest that you build a fudge-factor into your estimates.
7. Shake Off All Criticism. One of the reasons we stop before completing a project is to avoid criticism. Once it’s done and available for the world to judge, we can get apprehensive. Then we rationalize reasons not to complete it. The people that matter won’t be unkind. The unkind people don’t matter.
There’s no way to stop the criticism, but don’t you dare let it stop you.
8. Get better at finishing the small tasks in your life. Accomplishing the big goals in life, starts with how committed you are to completing the smaller goals or tasks in life. My grandfather use to say, “How you do one thing is how you do all things.” Although many may not believe it, the habits that we develop in one area of our lives will transfer to every other area. As a coach and leader, I have seen this truth play out in many ways. Today I challenge you to make the commitment that if you’re washing the dishes, you’ll avoid leaving that greasy, disgusting pan until morning. When doing laundry, you’ll fold all of the clothes rather than leaving some of them for later. Instead of avoiding the parts that you don’t particularly care for, commit to cleaning the entire room. Pay all of the bills. Run the full 3 miles you planned to run….by now, you get the picture. Finishing is a habit. Get in the habit of finishing all of the tasks in your life, no matter how small.
These small tips can be a great help in finishing future projects. If there’s one trait you’ll find in high-achievers, it’s the ability to get things done. Half-finished projects are incredibly wasteful and become a drain on your energy. It creates a sense of “failure” because although you put in a lot of work, by not finishing the task, you never receive the benefit or the sense of accomplishment.
Create and commit to a habit of finishing and observe the impact it has on every aspect of your life.