Developing a Finish Habit

by Dan Walsh

Everyone has little fears and personality traits that hold them back. Even the president. Even the pope. Even Richard Branson. I don’t know what their personal hurdles were, but I know I used to procrastinate a lot. I also used to avoid situations that were uncomfortable – like learning how to swim. These are both great ways to avoid ever accomplishing anything meaningful. I spent a large part of the last two years trying to overcome these habits, and overall I’d say it was time well spent. Time to move onto the next bad habit! But what is it?

I’ve been a procrastinator ever since I was a kid, even if I didn’t want to admit it. That was an easy problem to identify. I was also very aware of my inability to swim. By addressing that issue I discovered how much I was avoiding many difficult situations. I didn’t want to look like an idiot while trying to learn , so I’d store that stuff in a box labeled “not for me”. It was an easy way out. I did the same thing with writing for a long time, “I guess it’s not really for me.” I had these dialogues in my head and they helped me discover what needed work. I just had to listen.

I finally figured out what I need to work on next. It took awhile though. That little voice – the excuse, the refrain, the subconscious mantra – was quieter than the others had been. The others had been low-hanging fruit. This issue was a little higher up in the tree. It softly said “I’ll finish it later.”

I’ll Finish It Later

At first I thought this was the voice of procrastination again, but it’s not. Procrastination says “I’ll start it later.” This voice was all about finishing. As I paid more attention to this refrain I started seeing finishing issues all around me. I was really good at starting the dishes – at making a lot of progress – but I was really bad at finishing the dishes. In fact, most manifestations of this habit resulted in slightly messy, slightly cluttered personal surroundings. I’d wash and dry my laundry but leave it in the basket, unfolded, for weeks. Thankfully I have a patient girlfriend!

This “finish it later” mentality has also resulted in a bunch of half-cocked projects that never went anywhere. In general, I think it’s good practice to abandon projects, books, tv shows, etc if I discover they’re no longer worth my time, but the habit can lead to a lot of wasted time and money if it’s not applied correctly.

Abandon the bad stuff. Don’t abandon the good stuff or the stuff that needs to get done.

For example, the dishes must eventually be completed. However, my typical motivation for doing the dishes is to improve the mess in the kitchen, not to see it spic and span.

I’ve made a focused effort over the past few weeks to finish what I start. I’ve specifically focused on the dishes because it seems like good practice. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. But that just means I found a problem worth tackling.

Moving forward, I commit to finish what I start. I commit to accomplish what I set out to accomplish.