What do piles of opened mail, bags of stuff in the trunk of your car waiting to be returned to the store, and opened but unprocessed e-mails in your inbox all have in common? They are all things that have been started but not completed. Uncompleted tasks can weigh us down – rather than being able to cross something off our physical or mental to-do list, unfinished tasks nag at us and constantly reminds us there’s more work to do. They can also reduce our self-confidence by reminding us that once again we’ve failed to finish what we’ve started.
Not only can unfinished tasks have a psychic cost, but they can have a financial cost as well. For example, an unfinished quilt or other craft project can represent a huge financial investment. There's not much return on investment (including the benefit of enjoying looking at our handiwork) when such a project is sitting in a heap waiting to be finished. Unprocessed mail can result in late fees on unpaid bills or overdraft charges from an un-reconciled bank account. Those bags of stuff waiting to go back to the store can be tying up a large amount of your cash.

There are lots of reasons why we may start something and not finish it, including fear, procrastination, poor time estimating, or even boredom. If you want to overcome your habit of not finishing what you start it's important to figure out why you tend not to finish things and then figure out what to do about it. For example, maybe you’re afraid to finish something because you worry that you’ll have done it incorrectly or it won’t be good enough in other’s eyes. Procrastination may arise because you find the project overwhelming. Poor time estimating may find us starting something but just not having time to finish it. My clients with ADHD tend to have an especially difficult time finishing things, often because they get bored once the excitement of starting a project has worn off.

Once you know what your challenge is, evaluate it and determine what you can do about it. If fear is holding you back, evaluate the worst-case scenario. Maybe your anticipated outcome is worse than what's realistic. See if you can get someone else's input to help put things in perspective for you. In addition, remember that by not finishing a project, you run the risk of creating a bad impression in people's eyes anyway.

If you find a task or project overwhelming, ask yourself what one small thing you can do to move forward. If you focus on just the very next thing you need to do you might find that the project is more manageable and that you'll move it towards the finish line.

You may discover that you're not committed to the project so you're not motivated to finish it. For example, maybe once you started that quilt, you realized that you didn't like the pattern or the fabric you'd chosen. Give yourself permission to recognize that you made a mistake in picking the pattern or fabric and then move on. Relieve yourself of the guilt of feeling like you have to finish it.

If time management is your challenge – you can't finish one thing because you’re busy trying to get caught up on something else – you might find it helpful to get some time management coaching. An outside perspective can help you identify habits that are holding you back.

If boredom is preventing you from finishing things, find ways to overcome it. Use your peak energy time – that time of day when your brain is most engaged – to work on things you find boring. Play music, set a timer to challenge yourself, or find someone to work with you to help move that unexciting task forward.

Successful people don’t just talk about doing things, they actually do them, or get other people to do them. Either way, they get things across the finish line. Some days are going to be better than others, but as long as you keep moving forward, you’re bound to successfully get things completed.

Do you have a task that you’ve started but just can't seem to complete? What steps do you need to take to get it to the finish line?
Here's to your successful completion of the things that are hanging over your head and weighing you down.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.