Flattening the Never Finishing Monster

We want to again welcome guest author Alex Fayle, the writer and professional organizer behind the helpful anti-procrastination website Someday Syndrome. This is his third post of three in a series on fighting procrastination.

We’ve vanquished the Getting Started Monster, conquered the No Momentum Monster and now all that’s left is to finish up. You’ve uncluttered your space and managed to keep at it until everything is nicely streamlined. You’ve even put things back where they belong.

Well, almost everything. You have a few things that don’t fit in your current storage spaces, so you’ve left them on top of your desk while you figure out what type of storage you need for them exactly.

And then months pass with them still on your desk. A few bits and bobs not done don’t really matter you tell yourself every time you see the pile of things waiting to be given a home.

But it does matter because from that pile of things not put away the clutter starts to grow again, creeping out from that spot to take over the office again.

When we don’t finish projects we leave the door open to chaos. We let the Never Finishing Monster into our lives and everything around the place needs just a few adjustments to finish, but nothing’s totally completed. The baseboard is missing on the living room trim. The bedroom needs curtains. The email inbox still has a few dozen messages from two months ago waiting to be looked at.

Why don’t we totally finish? Because often we leave the fiddly bits to the end, the stuff that we’re not quite sure what to do with, or the stuff that we hate doing.

Dedicating Time

Fortunately, unlike getting started and moving forward, there is a trick to kill the Never Finishing Monster — it’s called the Get It Done Sprint.

I use this all the time with my writing. I’ll start a project and move it forward slowly and steadily but as I get closer to the end of something I slow down to a crawl that wouldn’t win a race against 80 year old snails.

When I notice that I’ve reached this point, I schedule a block of time (for my writing projects a week is usually a good amount of time) where I dedicate several hours a day getting the project done. The Never Finishing Monster doesn’t stand a chance against such dedicated effort.

It’s like the end of a 10km race — you pace yourself throughout the race until the finish line comes into sight and you sprint to the end.

Apply this same thinking to your organizing projects. When you almost reach the end, change your approach to the project and commit to getting it done within a very specific (and very short) timeframe. Schedule a day to go buy the supplies you need and enlist (or hire) help to put in that extra bit of effort to wrap up the project.

And don’t delay. Schedule the sprint as soon as possible. The longer you leave the project unfinished, the less likely you’ll get around to it and the more likely all your hard work will undo itself.

So tell me, what’s left to get finished in your house and when will you schedule the Get It Done Sprint that will squash the Never Finishing Monster flat?

9 Comments for “Flattening the Never Finishing Monster”

  1. posted by Gina on

    I moved two weeks ago — a perfect time to declutter! Now here I am on the other side of the move with almost everything in a proper place except there are several boxes still hanging on, and a few piles of semi-unpacked things threatening to take root.

    The thing is, right after I moved I took time off to work on getting unpacked. THEN I had two out of town trips scheduled. I am basically still at the point of unpacking that I was at before the trips interrupted the unpacking.

    I need to get it done — this weekend! No more monster piles.

  2. posted by knitwych on

    Okay, dude, have you been peeking into my office or what?

    I successfully gutted and organized my office closet the week before last. Now everything is within reach, easily found, and only the items that belong there live there. It looks awesome. The desk and the couch, however…not so awesome. I’ve got stacks of papers with which I need to play the Sort-File-Shred Game, as well as a bin of stuff I need to take to the local charity thrift shop. Thanks to prodding by your well-timed post, I’m scheduling time on Thursday to get that stuff done.

  3. posted by Laurel Alanna McBrine on

    It helps to look at why I am not finishing projects. I find my roadblock is perfectionism. I have a lot of unfinished projects because I have the niggling feeling that they can be improved and so they never reach completion.

    I am going to work on doing a “good enough” job and moving on to the next thing more quickly. This will open up space in my life for getting more done.

    Giving yourself a deadline is a great idea since that is when I do actually complete things – usually an external deadline. So, let’s all get ready to sprint to the finish!

  4. posted by Amy on

    I can so relate to this!

    Over a week ago, I scooped up every bit of laundry I have in my house (tons!) and washed it with the intention of sorting it and getting rid of my children’s out-grown items and labeling and packing the things that will fit my youngest by size.

    I thought I could do it in 2 evenings, and I ran out of time. It is a busy time at work and so I did not have my weekend to get it done.

    Now I am starting to pull clothes to wear from the clean hampers and things are getting messy again.

    If I do not get it done this weekend, I’ll be back where I started. I am glad I started it, but it is always tricky to begin a project without the time to complete it.

    In the future, I can’t allow it to go this far in the first place!

  5. posted by Marcie Lovett on

    I find that starting is the fun part. For some reason, I have always been more excited to start a project than to finish it. This summer I declared My Summer of Finishing Projects. No matter how seductive a new project appeared, I dedicated myself to finishing things I had left untended.

    I gained the satisfaction of completion and the space they were taking up on my mental list and in their holding places.

    I recommend that people chip away at projects instead of trying to finish big jobs in one concentrated attempt; it’s easier than trying to find large chunks of time. When you break your project into small steps it’s also less messy and less physically taxing – one moving box, one closet shelf, one load of laundry, etc.

  6. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    @Gina
    Good for you for committing to finishing the unpacking. So many people live in a semi-unpacked state until they forget what’s in the unopened boxes.

    @Knitwych
    I have a direct line through your webcam (I’m like Rebel from Heroes that way). 😉

    I love the Sort-File-Shred game – it appeals to my inner destruction-loving little boy.

    Happy to prod any time!

    @Laurel
    Holly Lisle in her awesome writing course How to Think Sideways has a line that’s “Perfect never finishes” and it’s true. At some point we have to say “good enough” and stop. And yes, I agree that a deadline helps sometimes, although I’ve been known to blow through them if I feel that they’re totally arbitrary, so I’ve learned to link my deadlines to something concrete (like launching my next ebook in October which has a theme similar to the topic of the ebook).

    @Amy
    Ugh! Laundry. I used to do laundry in big batches, going through all my clothes and then spending a whole weekend doing nothing but laundry. Now that there are two of us living in 250sq ft, laundry gets done every two days. And because we hang our clothes rather than use a dryer, they get folded right away because there’s no space to leave clean unfolded clothes anywhere. 😉

    @Marcie
    Starting is totally fun – it’s exciting and then the shine wears off and we realize that finishing is work and who likes to work?

    I’m a big fan to little bits of progress as well. For example with my current novel it’s one scene a day – about 1000 words. I don’t care about the rest of the 90000 words – I only care about the next 1000. It takes away a lot of stress.

  7. posted by Grace on

    In trying to do everything perfect, I over think myself into a halt… I complicate things, get frustrated and tend to go onto the next thing, leaving well intended projects unfinished.

    It does take a lot for me to focus and stick it through and when I do nothing feels better.

  8. posted by The Cure For Inaction is Action « Vasta Diem on

    […] Flattening The Never-Finishing Monster […]

  9. posted by Open Loops 10/13/2009: Articles I Think Worth Passing Along | SimpleProductivityBlog.com on

    […] It was odd that an article about chaos creeping in found its way into my reader…it showed up as I shoveled off my printer for the umpteenth time this week. But it’s true: “When we don’t finish projects we leave the door open to chaos.” Putting the finishing details is always a good idea, or you end up with projects with lots of threads hanging. Trim the threads and know it is truly done. (From Flattening the Never Finishing Monster) […]

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