Can You Finish Your Projects?

Firecracker MoneyI have a reputation for confidence. I am the one who knows what he wants and pursues it relentlessly until he achieves it. I will not rest until every single genius idea in my brain has come to life.

Except… Well, no. Not really.

I’ve achieved a lot of accomplishments, true. This business is one of them. But for every amazing venture you hear about me starting, I’d estimate that at least a dozen others get a stuttering start followed by a lot of frustration that boils up until I throw the project aside and declare I’ll never start another venture again.

Until next week.

This is a serious problem, actually. Many ideas I’ve had were met with widespread support and excitement from other people and potential clients. But those projects never saw the light of day.

I don’t yet know how to get around this problem in a way that works for me, but I do know what’s currently getting in my way:

Excuse Me, Do You Have the Time?

Time – or lack thereof – is possibly the biggest obstacle to finishing a project. Any brand-new venture needs plenty of time put into the brainstorming to make it a success. It also needs time to ask people for their feedback about the idea, time to get the website up and running, time to write the copy for the website, time to develop the product or service the website sells, time to beat your head against the wall until the voices quiet down . . .

You get the idea. Every venture takes time, and usually more than I plan to spend on it.

The other problem with time is that the longer a venture takes to complete, the more time I have to become disenchanted with it. Time starts to drag. The venture is no longer exciting; it’s just a drain on my energy.

Momentum Gets The Ball Moving

Momentum has more to do with how you really feel about a project than anything else. When you first get a brilliant idea, it’s like someone lit a firecracker under your chair. You can’t wait to get started – go!

After a little time has gone by (see above), you aren’t as excited anymore. The fuse has burnt out, the fireworks are over, and now you have to figure out what happens next. It’s starting to feel like work. The idea of getting anywhere near the same amount of excitement and energy going again seems impossible.

So the great idea starts to lose its luster, and pretty soon I’m starting to think maybe it’s not such a great idea after all. Well, sure, it’s a good idea. But is it good enough for me to spend two hours a day for the next ten weeks accomplishing it?


Do You Think This’ll Work?

Lack of confidence in myself is not generally a problem (I am James. I am King).

Lack of confidence in a new project, however, sometimes is. Once I’ve lost my initial excitement for an idea, I become very objective about the merits of that idea, the pros and cons, the balance of risks versus returns. I often decide it’s not worth my (very valuable) time to bring a project into existence.

Deciding I’m not confident a project deserves my time isn’t a problem. That’s just entrepreneurship. The problem is that I sometimes misjudging the merits of an idea based on my lack of enthusiasm.

I can name at least three brilliant ideas right now that I’m absolutely convinced would make me a great deal of money. But I convinced myself awhile back that they weren’t worth the trouble. I lost confidence that the ideas were good ones and decided to go out and make up a better idea instead.

You can guess what happened to that one.

What keeps you from finishing a project? Can you name three obstacles? And what can you do about overcoming them?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. I relate to the post in all matters: I felt I need to start a blog and website for a very long time and couldn’t able to decide on the name; I got a brilliant idea for a book which is a semi-autobiographical and want to write it… and felt it won’t appeal to any one.

    I struggle with this disease badly. I don’t know the way out. I feel I need to go to yoga for calming myself and give a direction to achieve my dreams.
    .-= Solomon´s last blog ..The year that GONE by and the lessons LEARNT … =-.

  2. Time is by far my biggest obstacle. I have tons of ideas and just getting them started and rolling is sometimes the hardest part. Finding a good assistant has been key for me. Now I just spec out the project and let her get the ball rolling with my staff. She lets me know when I need to look at the progress and when next steps are needed. I have been able to get more projects rolling this way.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 2/5/10 =-.

  3. James, I have been afflicted by the same issue. Over the years I would start many projects and never finish anything, I felt like a complete failure…most of the time…
    My obstacles were anything from the next shiny project, hating the detail and boredom.
    Then came the aha moment…I am a great starter, hence the mind of the entrepreneur and a crappy…less than stellar finisher.
    So for the past few years I have stacked my rolodex full of people whose strengths are my weaknesses. I know that I cannot be great at everything…ego is nicely put into its place…and I hire awesome amazing people to help with the finishing. I am sure that you know at least one of those amazing people I have hired and he is a superb finisher…
    Heather great work on hiring awesome people for the finishing.

    Have an awesome week…reading this post was very inspiring to me today.

  4. One of my goals this year is to make some good partnerships, as Heather mentions, her assistant has proved invaluable in taking the burden and keeping the prject fresh in her mind.

    I’m sure it’s also useful to have people around you who can gee you up, share your vision and encourage you to keep on it.

    I know I try and do too much myself. When I worked for someone else, he had the ideas and I put it into action. I wondered how he managed to have so much energy and realised it was because he surrounded himself with people who could do the work to bring his visions to life.

    I would like to become more like that, but having the confidence in an idea that warrants getting someone else on board can be difficult.

    But that’s what I’m aiming for!
    .-= Amy Harrison´s last blog ..Goals Bonus Article: Get Ready For Your Calling =-.

  5. Yo James:

    New site and design rocks.

    How the heck are we supposed to get stuff done when you put up new bells and whistles???

  6. The thing that consistently trips me up is work, work, work, with no reward. Until a project is up and running, I pour everything I have into it–and it feels like shouting down a well.

    Once it’s done, I get a payoff. When it’s done and I get some feedback, it’s great. Until then, it can be hell to keep going.

    A small project isn’t a problem because of the turnaround time. Big projects are tough.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..Make the most of your down time =-.

  7. I’ve seen this a lot, and it’s stopped a lot of my earlier projects from getting off the ground. I’ve found a work-around, though, but chunking projects into lots of little “next steps”; you don’t have to map out all of them, just figure out what the next little step is, and commit to a timeline for doing that. If it’s with a client, then tell him/her what will be done by the next meeting. If it’s with a partner, even better. This becomes most difficult in situations where you’re working on a project by yourself – an accountability partner can really help with that.

  8. Ohh, I can completely relate. Starting is fun, new beginnings are exciting – and shiny and new! – maintaining, not so much. I also suffer from having eyes bigger than my tummy syndrome – I think I can handle a bunch of new projects and initiatives, then struggle when they compete for attention.

    To cope, I sometimes trick myself into thinking Stage 2 (3, 4, etc) of a project is actually a new beginning. Or I need pretty supplies (bright colored post-its?) to get the next stage going. And bribery – promising myself a reward at the end of EACH STAGE (end of project is too far off for my lizard brain). I like the suggestions of others to ask for help, use an assistant, virtual or otherwise.
    .-= Ami´s last blog ..The allure – and danger of competence =-.

  9. Hey James and fellow commentees.

    The biggest obstacle to finishing anything is worrying about the outcome. Will it work? Will people think differently. Banish those thoughts and you can move forward with anything. No one knows if it will work until they try it — that is unless they have a crystal ball …

    Giulietta the Muse
    .-= Giulietta´s last blog ..Psst! Here’s the “secret” to achieving greatness. =-.

  10. I started writing a book last May. It was coming along great until July, when I had my in-laws come to visit for 2 weeks. Totally threw me off track. Then I went on a 3 week vacation. By Sept, I had lost all momentum.

    I got back on track by hiring a writers coach in November. Basically I pay this woman to give me a assignments and babysit me!

    But it’s working. My book proposal’s almost complete and I don’t feel like such a loser anymore. Sure, it’s costing me a lot of $, but the process is what it takes to finish the damn thing!
    .-= Maria Brophy´s last blog ..HOW PLAYING IT SAFE KILLS YOUR CREATIVITY =-.

  11. Collaboration.

    I have a (trash) folder full of would-be projects. All of which are going to rot on the hard drive or never leave my project-addled brain. Time (lack of), fear and procrastination have long killed them off.

    But not if I work with another person.

    If I collaborate with another then the project gets a lot further and in a shorter amount of time. Take my fiancées card making business (; barely been launched and already made its first online sale.

    That’s because of encouragement, infectious enthusiasm and a responsibility to Mandy. Left to my own devices I’d probably be at least a month behind.

    So next time you are bitten by the new venture/project bug, my advice is to find someone to collaborate with.
    .-= Marc´s last blog ..Why You Shouldn’t Work for Your Friends, Family or Yourself =-.

  12. James, love your clean new design!

    I always call this middle zone between idea and completion “The Gap.” Everything happens in the gap. All my beliefs, self worth, self doubt, daily intrusions and circumstances, relatives visiting, cars breaking down, cereal bowl on the floor, all of it. And this too is where I get things done.

    It seems to me that when I’m able to move from idea to completion well, I’m acting on my intentions and commitments, not my feelings. Feelings aren’t good or bad, they’re just feelings. Something to pay attention to and notice. And sometimes feelings are intuitive nudges that my idea or project needs a tweak or a recalibration. But too much attention on feelings and I end up in a perpetual dither. Nothing feels worse than that.

    Commitment, collaboration and accountability. I’m running with that… 🙂
    .-= Lisa Gates´s last blog ..Top 3 Work+Life Balance Boosters that Have Nothing (everything) to Do with Productivity =-.

  13. We are all limited in the amount of time that we have. Having enough is definitely the biggest barrier to completing projects. Oddly enough, this is one area where we are all truly equal. (If any one has figured out a way to get more than 24 hours from a day, let me know. 😉 )

    I think that’s what makes it so important to make sure that what you do with your time has real value. It’s easy to lose track of time, and before you know it you’ve wasted an entire morning on absolutely nothing.

    Personally, I have trouble assigning value to projects that I’m know I won’t get paid for right away. That’s why most of my personal projects are on hold while I work on client work.

  14. Perfectionism is usually my problem. Then I remind myself (to quote a wise man), that “artists ship.” I have a poster with those words (and others) pinned up on my wall.

    Sometimes, an idea may scare you, so you resist it. Other times, it deserves to die. That’s OK, move on to the next one.

    Of course, today I was having trouble getting anything done because first my Internet connection went out and then my printer wouldn’t print!

  15. I think more than time, it’s laziness. Time never changes, you either make the time or you don’t. You either get one less hour of sleep or you don’t, etc.

    Laziness may not be the best word since one is often already doing so much. But, I think it’s a lack of willingness. When you want it to happen, you just do it.
    .-= Bamboo Forest – PunIntended´s last blog ..Our Environment Is in the Crapper. Will You Help Me? =-.

  16. Oh, you are singing my song, James! I would says 1) Time (or really, prioritizing Time, since we all have the same amount) and 2) Information Overload are my biggest challenges. I think of something cool, start exploring and learning what I think I need to know before starting, and then I never start for being paralyzed by competing information or too many options. So maybe the third biggest problem for me is 3) Thinking Everything Has to Be in Place before you can start.

    Thank you for at least letting us know these are shared challenges. That helps, somehow.

  17. It’s too bad that you have a lot of ideas but just don’t have enough time to make them happen. I find this a problem too. I really wish that I don’t need sleep so that I can do things twice as much.

  18. Great comments, everyone. It’s clear that I’m not the only one sitting around with incomplete projects, and I think it’s a good thing that we all know we’re not alone.

    Just this weekend, I was talking with Taylor about projects we don’t finish and we agreed there’s another kind: The kind you know that you *can* complete. So you stop bothering to finish. We’ve both got a few of those in our closets!

    No one ever said people were logical creatures, eh?

  19. Thanks James! Feeling muddled over my many projects today, I needed this post to help me see where I’ve gone off course so many times. I have many unfinished projects due to the reasons you’ve stated, and also because 1) I have too many good ideas all at once and don’t know which one to prioritize 2) I get distracted by my family, dogs, cat, the rest of my life, fires in my kitchen, etc 3)I feel that my brain is on information overload.
    Notice, all three of my reaons are interconnected so closely that really they are one reason: I haven’t prioritized my writing projects.

  20. I always get excited and jump into a new project with both feet, only to either get distracted with another new project or run out of steam about halfw-

  21. Three obstacles?

    1) Perfectionism
    2) Self-sabotage
    3) Time/mixed priorities

    Marc’s right, for me the answer is collaboration. If I can find the right partner/team for a project, it gets further, faster, and is easier for me to stay on track with.

    I have no shortage of ideas, or even of confidence. Implementation depends on staying motivated, though, and I don’t treat myself like a good enough reason, consistently. Sigh.
    .-= Karilee´s last blog ..Who Are Your Favorite Bloggers? =-.

  22. Surprisingly, it’s not always a compelling “what” that sees us through … it’s a compelling “why.” Connecting what we’re doing with our values and spending time in our strengths is a recipe for results.

    Before I throw my life force at something, I make sure the “why” is on fire.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..10 Ways to Go from Good to Great =-.

  23. I also suffer lack of confidence on my works. It always come in mind what other people say. But I remembered once my teacher have told us that popular people are popular because they choose to be different.

  24. Procrastination or I think of another idea. I’ll start then stop. I get so many ideas. But I don’t want to take on too many things and then nothing gets done. James, maybe you should try asking someone to help you with your projects to feel excitement again. Just a thought.
    .-= Omar´s last blog ..Les Brown Speaks =-.

  25. I think my biggest problem with not finishing projects is distraction. I get distracted by things, people, books, movies, videos, twitter, other blogs, etc. I really have to work on that. I am a great planner but I don’t always follow through with the plan!
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..The Other Best Thing About NAMS3: Brainstorming Group =-.

  26. I have a graveyard of prototype projects on my hard drive for video games I was developing. I’m a jack of all trades, so I try to do it all myself, but when it comes time to abort and start over fresh, I have only me to make the decision. I have tried collaboration, but I’m always trying to be a mastermind, and I can’t work well with others ideas. I’m beginning to think maybe I should force myself to suffer through a project no matter what I think of it, until it’s done, like an exercise regime.

  27. I googled this problem today and your blog showed up. I have recently come to this realization that I do this. I was looking at my night stand and I have a total of 6 books, all started, none finished. Some books have been sitting there since last year. Sad. I agree with a lot of what you said in this post. I wonder how you combat it. For me for right now, I have like stay on myself and discipline myself, almost like a child, and be like your not allowed to do anything else till you finish this. So sad.


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