Confession time. I have a starting problem. I LOVE starting things! And I’m really good at it. I can start so many things, that you’ll loose track of them. In fact, I can start so many thing that I’ll loose track of them. I can get so excited about the ideas behind things that I want to just jump in and start. And I do.
I can think of a handful of small projects that I’ve decided to start– often they are things that I’m making or building. I go to the store and get supplies. It’s all so much fun, until I get back and then realize how much work is ahead and how it may be really really hard work. If I’m not careful I can do a lot of starting things and not finishing them.
Starting has its limits.
You can only have so many balls in the air at one time. The down side of being good at taking initiative and starting is that you can then find yourself spread too thin. The more you have going on, the less effective and invested you can be in any one of those areas.
If you are really good at starting things, here are four things you need to learn in order to survive and be more effective.
1) LEARN TO SAY NO
This is the hardest for many. The thrill of starting can be fueled by the endless possibility that could come about. Saying no to taking on another project means saying no to the possibilities that it could create. It also means saying yes to a deeper investment in the things you are already a part of. Anytime you say no to another project, idea, or commitment, you are protecting your time and energy so that you can invest more in the places that you are already investing. Starting things and not finishing them can be avoided by not starting as many things.
2) LET PROJECTS END
This is hard because you’ve loved the idea enough to start it. It’s hard to see something that I care about die. It’s also hard because it forces you to confront your limits and admit that you are unable to do it all at once. It forces you to see that starting things all the time is not sustainable or effective.
Good starters get good at letting projects go. The more you practice this, the more you’re able to stop yourself and evaluate whether or not you’ll be able to follow it through to completion. If it’s going to be just another thing to do and another distraction, then quit while you can– before you’ve invested too much. Yes, this means they will go unfinished, but that might be necessary in order to free yourself up to focus on other project. You can stop starting things and not finishing them by clearing space to work on and finish the things that matter most.
3) FIND COLLABORATORS
I am a huge advocate for collaboration. We can accomplish so much more together than we can on our own, and the creative process is so much more interesting when more are involved. Finding collaborators is a great way to deal with the challenge of too many projects, and it’s a great way to team up with people whose strengths balance you out, and vice versa.
But keep this in mind: People don’t want to enable your lack of focus and/or self control. No one wants to be your clean up crew.
Teammates and collaborators can help you carry a project through the difficult places where you get stuck. Those places may be some of why you keep starting things and not finishing them. Collaborators can help.
4) LEARN TO FINISH
Starting is fun, and finishing is also exhilarating, but making it through to the end is the hard part. Anyone can start something, and many do. Few finish things because of the difficulty of staying on course and committed in the middle. The middle is a very hard place.
Have you ever watched a long distance race? I ran a marathon a number of years ago. The start was just so much fun. There were people everywhere cheering. I was running with gobs of people too. It was an absolute rush! Because of this, the first 8 miles went by fast; too fast, in fact! By the time I hit the half way point, I was feeling pretty spent and was starting to hurt in all kinds of ways.
The rush was gone. Starting was easy, keeping on through the middle was very difficult.
Starting and finishing are exciting, glamorous, and sexy. The middle is dull and hard. The middle is the connection between the beginning and end. Without the ability to get through the middle, you’re stuck starting things and not finishing them. Surviving the middle (and thus finishing) requires dedication, fortitude, endurance, mettle, resolve, and determination. These are not fun words. These words are painful.
No one quits at the start or the finish. It’s the middle where the body count rises.
How do you deal with starting things and not finishing them? What other lessons have you learned along the way?