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.




Too many projects? Feeling overwhelmed? Finish something! It will give you momentum to finish something else. Share on X


That’s it. Finish something. And it worked!

Why did it work?

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.”

What else works?

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!

How do you manage project overwhelm?

Please share with us in the comments below!



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  1. innovativepat on July 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Oh, this is all so true, Hazel! Thanks for gently reminding me to stay focused on the goal.

  2. Janet Barclay on February 6, 2013 at 5:58 am

    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.

    • Hazel Thornton on February 6, 2013 at 8:58 am

      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!

      • Janet Barclay on February 6, 2013 at 9:20 am

        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.

  3. Sue West, Coach (@Space4U) on February 13, 2013 at 9:09 am

    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!”

    • Hazel Thornton on February 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

      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.

  4. Tracy Hoth on February 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

    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!

    • Hazel Thornton on February 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Good point! And good job! 🙂

  5. Linda Samuels on February 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    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.”

  6. Seana Turner on June 15, 2023 at 10:56 am

    So simple, and yet so good! I know I have a lot of things just “hanging” out there. It always feels good to finish something, not only to have it done, but also because then I can put “away” everything related to it.

    Good point about delegating as well. Sometimes we need to admit defeat and bring in others in order to get it finished.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2023 at 8:11 am

      You have suddenly reminded me of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) method. Seems like he used another term, but “loose ends” will do for now. They do, indeed, feel so good to tie up! And you make a good point about being able to put away related items/tools/supplies/files, etc.

  7. Sabrina Quairoli on June 15, 2023 at 11:02 am

    I’m a fan of completing a task and acknowledging the completion. We feel so proud when we finish something that the motivation helps catapult us into tackling the next challenge.

    I like to ride my bike on the trail. We usually go on the same trails, but every now and again, I want to try a new one. The new trail that we were on had lots of hills. While returning from our ride, telling myself, “I can do it” over and over again helped me feel motivated to make it up the hill. When I reached the top, I said to myself, “I did it. I completed it.” It may sound silly, but I felt so empowered. Hills were always my kryptonite when riding.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2023 at 8:14 am

      Telling oneself, “I can do it,” is so powerful! And I agree that celebrating even small accomplishments along the way increases motivation. In my case, sometimes I put something off for so long that when I finally do it, I marvel to myself: “I’m doing it! I’m actually doing it.” LOL!

  8. Julie Bestry on June 19, 2023 at 11:25 pm

    Small victories breed success; we see it every day. But I especially like that you’ve pointed out that “finishing something” (active voice) can really mean “being finished with it” (passive voice). I love that you include the notion that delegating or deleting also count!

    I agree with Tracy, above, that it’s much like the debt snowball concept. Each bit of progress is a “power up” so you can conquer more at the next level. Such good advice!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2023 at 8:19 am

      Yes, I found myself constantly reminding clients that just because they put something on their to-do list doesn’t mean they actually have to do it! Things change. To-do lists need to be periodically re-prioritized.

  9. Jonda S Beattie on June 20, 2023 at 5:29 am

    I usually have several projects going at the same time. I make a timeline for each project and have each project broken down into small doable bits. Each time I complete the tiny task for the day, I feel victorious and confident that I will complete the project. I always have a list of “do” dates to work toward the due date of the project.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2023 at 8:21 am

      I like that: Task “Do” dates leading up to project “Due” dates! 🙂

  10. Jill Katz on June 20, 2023 at 6:45 am

    This is great! Having sayings or mantras can really help someone move forward. When I am stuck, I often find that the next step looms large in my mind but when I’m on the other side of it, I realize it didn’t take as long or wasn’t as big of a step as I thought. “Finish Something” is a great way to create that momentum. Thanks for sharing this simple but powerful strategy.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2023 at 8:25 am

      I, too, am frequently surprised at how easy something was in the end. Sometimes I put a task or project off for so long that when I finally do it, I marvel to myself: “I’m doing it! I’m actually doing it!” (Even before i know how long it will end up taking or how difficult it will end up being.) LOL!

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