How to Finish What You Start

Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by 14 Comments

How to Finish What You Start
Blog / Business / How to Finish What You Start

Sometimes, you’ll start a project you’re passionate about, only to drop it halfway through. It’s always sad, but it happens to a lot of people, and it’s often due to compelling reasons. However, in other cases, the roadblocks are solely in our own heads, which can keep us from accomplishing our goals.

For this reason, learning how to finish what you start is essential to cultivate success. Even if your projects fail, you’ll learn something by seeing them through. In this article, we’ll talk about why committing to something can be difficult, then we’ll go over some tips to help you finish what your start.

Let’s do this!

Why It’s Difficult to See Projects Through

Whether it’s in or out of the workplace, seeing a project through to the end can be difficult. Many of us are “working” on grandiose projects that we never seem to make any headway on. For example, if we had a dollar for every time we heard someone was working on a new novel, only to never actually finish it, we’d be rich.

The thing is, you can also fall into a pattern of not being able to complete even modest projects. That can happen due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Procrastination. We’re all guilty of putting work off until the last minute from time to time. If this becomes a habit, it will stop you from getting anything done at all.
  • Bad work habits. Most successful people get a lot done because they try to be as productive as possible, which requires developing good work habits.
  • Fear of failure. In some cases, just the idea of failing can be enough to stop us from making any progress, and this is more common than you might think.
  • Lack of motivation. Sometimes you won’t feel like being productive, which is why it’s rarely a good idea to rely on motivation alone.

Imagine, for example, you’re a famous author working on your next fantasy novel. Fans have been waiting for years now and you keep putting off finishing the book because you can’t find the motivation to write, or you’re scared it might not turn out the way you want.

Wanting to do your best work only is a great thing. However, at some point, if you don’t finish what you start, you end up in ‘development hell’. That’s when progress on your project slows down to a crawl and you end up losing all your momentum. Ultimately, you need to learn how to finish what you start, which is what we’ll talk about in the next section.

How to Finish What You Start (4 Tips)

In many cases, getting things done comes down to self-discipline. However, sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to see something through, which is why it can be a good idea to put some of these tips into action. If you do, you’ll have a much easier time getting projects to the finish line!

1. Stop Being a Perfectionist

In development, there’s something called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). As the name implies, this is a bare-bones version of a product that’s not finished yet, but it gets the job done. A good example of this is when software is released in ‘early access’, enabling the developers to polish it up until the full release. Although it’s not always possible to ‘ship an MVP’ in all types of work, the MVP mentality is something that can benefit a lot of people.

The idea is, at some point, you need to stop trying to get everything perfect to avoid getting stuck in development hell. In the workplace, this can lead to people not trusting you to get things done, which is not a good look for anyone.

To be fair, perfectionism can be a fantastic trait. The higher your standards are, the more likely it is you’ll deliver results that go above and beyond. However, perfectionism is only possible in as much as it doesn’t interfere with getting things done.

If you want to apply MVP mentality to your projects, here’s how you can get started:

  1. Outline the bare minimum you need to do to complete each project.
  2. Set additional milestones for yourself after your MVP is done, focusing on improving it.
  3. Try to put off any ‘editing’ work until your MVP is ready.

Some of us don’t work in fields where we can ship MVPs since clients expect deliverables to be great from the get-go. If that applies to you, then it’s at least worth trying to stick to point number three. Don’t get stuck re-working every section of your project when you should be moving forward.

2. Break Down Your Goals Into Smaller Tasks

There’s a reason why so few people ever sit down and finish writing their novels. Writing a book is an enormous task that can intimidate anyone (unless your surname is King). While you may be motivated at the start, as the work drags on you might slow down your progress or even put the whole thing off indefinitely.

When it comes to projects of that magnitude, the smart thing to do is to break them down into smaller tasks that are easier to complete. Imagine, for example, you want to launch an online store using WordPress. Here’s how we would break that down into steps:

  1. Buy a domain and sign up for a hosting plan.
  2. Install WordPress.
  3. Set up WooCommerce.
  4. Find and install a WooCommerce-friendly theme that fits your style.
  5. Create your first product.

Of course, there’s a lot more work to launching an online store. However, it becomes much less intimidating once you break it down into individual tasks.

You can apply this approach to pretty much anything, even if it’s a smaller project. All you have to do is list each step you need to complete and keep track of them as you finish each one, which brings us to the next section.

3. Keep Track of Your Progress

One of the reasons why so many people have a hard time finishing what they start is not seeing the fruits of their labor. In short, they don’t feel like they’re making progress. Take losing weight, for example. Imagine you want to drop 50 pounds, which requires quite a lot of work. With a good diet and exercise, you can (safely) lose anywhere within one to three pounds in a week.

This means in a best-case scenario, you could lose those 50 pounds in about 17 weeks. However, even that’s going to be difficult unless you have access to a dietician and a personal trainer. For the rest of us ordinary folk, the process will probably take a few more months. The problem is, you might start to feel discouraged after a while if you don’t see a noticeable difference because the changes are so incremental.

The same can happen in any kind of project. If you don’t feel you’re making progress after putting in a lot of work, it’s easy to lose motivation and quit. That’s why it’s essential you find a way to track your progress closely.

One of our favorite ways to do this is to set SMART goals. These are all about giving yourself specific targets to hit and setting a timeframe in which to do it. Once you have a goal in mind and you’ve broken it off into smaller tasks (as we discussed in the previous section), tracking your progress becomes simple. To make this even more manageable, we recommend using a productivity app that enables you to keep track of your progress.

4. Have Other People Hold You Accountable

If you have a hard time finishing what you start, what you might need is someone to hold you accountable if you stop. This is also called an ‘accountability partner’.

These types of relationships are more common than you think. For example, plenty of self-help groups assign you buddies or mentors whose primary task is to keep you on course. In some cases, that might mean making sure you hit a deadline, that you don’t break your diet, or that you don’t fall back into a self-destructive behavior pattern.

In a regular workplace, your superiors are basically accountability partners since it’s their job to make sure you get things done. However, if you – like some of us – work in a more independent setting, finding an accountability partner can be more complicated. Here are some ideas to help you started:

  • Go to meetups that have to do with your field so you can build your own network.
  • Try visiting and participating in online forums dedicated to your area of work.
  • Use business networking apps to meet other like-minded individuals.

With these kinds of relationships, the idea is you’ll also help your partner stay on track and finish what they start. That way, you’ll both benefit from it, which motivates you to remain accountable.


If you’re the kind of person that can see a project through, you already have an advantage over a lot of people, both in and out of the workplace. For most of us, making a commitment to complete something on time can be stressful. However, it’s a skill you need to master if you want to be successful.

You’ll need self-discipline to finish what you start. However, there are also several tips you can put into action to get you to the finish line, such as:

  1. Stop being a perfectionist.
  2. Break down your goals into smaller tasks.
  3. Keep track of your progress.
  4. Have other people hold you accountable.

Do you have any problems finishing what you start? Share your thoughts about why that is in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by blocberry /


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  1. I’m not a famous author, but an inspiring one who was stuck in “development hell” for a few years. Three blogs/domains later the perfectionist in me has subsided quite a bit.

    I noticed, being a perfectionist was my way of trying to control the outcome. When the results didn’t match up to my expectations, I redesigned the blog, created a new one and editing the content.

    The vicious cycle was never-ending. The patterns of behavior (control the outcome) ultimately stemmed from childhood experiences too.

    Another reason for being stuck was not having a clear understanding of the final outcome. I saw it as a whole project (a blog, Memoir, and book) and failed to outline the bare minimum for each step in the process.

    I have learned self-discipline along the way. This post is spot on and will help me move forward in my journey. Thanks, John, much appreciated! Linda

  2. You always surprise me with good articles and motivate me a lot! Thank you.

    • Wow – thanks for the kinds words. 🙂

  3. Thank you. I sometimes wonder if I have a fear of success, though. Sounds bizarre, but what if my blog and online biz turn out to be as amazing and profitable as I dream they will be. That’s scary too, and I think it often stops me from following through on my plans.

  4. Great article. I really like the tip to break down your goals into smaller tasks.

  5. Well. Really nice. Keep it up!

    • Thanks, Athar!

  6. Great article BUT…

    the link to “” (section 3.) got me upset.

    You can NOT view the site if you do not accept the privacy statement and also all the cookies! This is absolutely AGAINST data protections laws. Clearly (another) US based company who does not care about EU/GDPR/privacy etc. regulations at all.

    I would not recommend to drive traffic to their website. This kind of website behavior is unacceptable.

  7. Great article! This gives me the motivation to continue working on my beleggen project.

    • Fantastic – glad we could be of service!

  8. Thank you! This is helpful on a self-leadership level but also to support others achieving their goals.

  9. Thanks 🙂

    • No problem. 🙂

  10. Thanks a lot for the guide

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