Finish What You Start
With so many phone calls, meetings, emails, texts, projects, small jobs, big jobs and all the “stuff of life” tossed in together — it’s so hard sometimes to start anything and see whatever it is through to completion. But great leaders are great planners who learn how to manage time so they can focus on their tasks and responsibilities, always finishing what they start.
How can you get better at this?
Give each task your full attention. Be completely present when you decide to undertake something new. Let go of the tendency to multi-task for the moment. Slow the frenetic pace of today’s traditional professional race and concentrate more about the quality of the journey, while you keep your destination, or goal, in mind. Allow yourself to get in “the zone”… or that place in which you’re not only immersed in what you’re doing but also excited and happy about it. Or, picture yourself wearing the hat of a specially assigned “task force” member who has only that sole task to tackle — then do it.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Great leaders learn how to set limits, but many of them will tell you that saying “no” over the course of their career has been one of their biggest challenges. Why? Leaders tend to want to do it all — they’re often entrepreneurial, creative and innovative types, who thrive off of new directions, possibilities and grandiose visions of success. While those are all fabulous qualities, they must be balanced with an understanding of personal and professional limitations and then checked with reason. Like these leaders, you, too, will always be approached or come up with your own ideas, dreams and visions. Having a system in place, whether it’s on paper or in your head, for analyzing, accessing and developing the true potential of something new is critical for making decisions about what you can and cannot do. In that process, you’ll learn just what it truly is that you’re considering putting on your plate and whether you can say yes or no to it.
Ask for help. When you get stumped or know you can’t finish what you’ve started, it doesn’t change the fact that the job must get done. So don’t be afraid to ask for help — find someone who can assist you. But don’t undermine the good intentions of your delegation by choosing just anyone to help you. Align what you assign to people who have a natural talent or the proven skills for it. This will help ensure the project or task is completed with greater, speedier success.
Prevent distractions. Plan ahead for when you’re going to work on a particular project and create the environment you need to succeed. If you’ve got budget numbers to crunch, have your office manager hold calls or put a “do not disturb” sign on your office door. Further discipline yourself to avoid checking emails as they ding in your inbox… just focus on the project at hand.
Pay attention to details. When mistakes get made, it’s always harder to finish what we’ve started. And many mistakes occur when we fail to pay attention to details not just along the way but, particularly, when we initiate a project, task or even conversation. There are many reasons why we might not pay attention — lack of interest in the project, we’re in a hurry, we’re not thinking of the big picture, we’re distracted or uncomfortable in our immediate environment, etc. But it all comes down to discipline. We need to practice paying attention more, slowing down, reading the small print, asking the right questions in the beginning, and planning time to think about the “What ifs,” so you’re better equipped and prepared for completing the task more thoroughly and seeing it through until the end.
What’s the #1 reason you struggle to finish what you start?