Success Breeds Success: Finish Something!

A senior coworker once gave me a great piece of advice early in my corporate career. I was feeling overwhelmed and whiny about all the projects I had been assigned. I was paralyzed with indecision about what to work on next. What was his advice? Finish something.

That’s it. Finish something. And it worked! I identified which project was nearest completion and focused on that until it was done. Then I moved on to the next nearly-completed project and got that off my plate too. Finally, I felt prepared to tackle a larger, more important project.

The beauty of finishing something is that it gives you a sense of accomplishment that propels you forward into the possibility of finishing something else. Success breeds success. The more little successes you have, the sooner you reach the tipping point between fearing you can’t do it, and realizing that of course you can do it! As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

Keep in mind, though, that “finishing something” can also mean delegating it to someone else who is better qualified, or who has more time. It can mean deleting it from your To-Do List altogether. Just because you started something (like that knitting project from 10 years ago) does NOT mean you have to finish it! Consider whether an unfinished project still supports your current priorities and goals before spending more time on it.

But maybe…probably…there’s something on your list that if you just focused on it for an hour, or made that one phone call you’ve been avoiding, or planned out the next few steps of the project, it would be easy to finish. Wouldn’t that feel great?

I can think of a few little projects that have been hanging around on my own To-Do List for too long. Bye – gotta go finish something!

Copyright 2012-2013 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. You’ve summed up succinctly something it look me a long time to learn. I now try to avoid starting a new project, no matter how tempting it is, until I’ve wrapped up what I’m already working on.

    • I still have several things going at once (in various stages of completion), but if it starts being a problem I remind myself: Finish something!

      • Trust me, I do too (there’s no getting away from it) but I’m careful not to overcommit myself.When I take on a new web design project, for example, if I’ve already got a couple of sites on the go, I will let my client know what type of timeframe to expect, instead of creating a lot of pressure on myself.

  2. I loved your point, Hazel, about how one success propels us forward to the next one. Isn’t that so true, that once you start using the “success” muscle, it keeps getting stronger. So when the big decisions arrive, as you say, “The sooner you reach the tipping point between fearing you can’t do it, and realizing that of course you can do it!”

    • I think it’s the biggest difference between me and my clients. I think I can do it. They think they can’t. I really try to flip that switch for them. Sometimes I succeed.

  3. It reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball…finish the smaller one first and move on to the next…even if it isn’t mathematically the best approach.
    I just FINISHED sending all the required material to my web master for a new product “Paper Bliss” to go up on my site! It sure does feel great to be FINISHED and ready to move on to complete another project!

  4. Never ceases to amaze me how much psychic energy those “almost done” projects take. But what’s even more amazing is how little energy it usually takes to finish them. When I find myself in that “almost there” space, I try to focus on the one small next step I can take to move a project, dream, or goal forward. And once that happens, as you said, “success breeds success.”

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