Why can’t I finish anything?
Are you like me, starting projects, only to stop, and will be forced to ask yourself “Why can’t I finish anything?”. With my office job, projects get completed, because there are schedules and other people to help keep the projects on track. But what about personal projects or that business you always wanted to start?
Usually, it goes like this. You get an idea where you’re very excited about it at the first. You can’t stop talking about it. The idea is so great that you can’t sleep. You dream up everything you’ll need.
- a business plan
- your logo
- a domain name
- what the websites going to look like
- All the money you are going to make
You go along with the project, excited as can be, for maybe 3 weeks, and then you don’t want to do it anymore. You have totally run out of energy on the project and you think of doing something else. my problem is that you start too many projects that you have every intention of finishing. I used to get very frustrated at the end of every day because I would say “I got nothing done!”. The truth is I got a lot of activity done but nothing accomplished because I didn’t finish anything and if I didn’t finish it I can’t ship it out to the world So it sits collecting virtual dust on the hard drive.
Time after time, this happens and you have to ask yourself “Why can’t I finish anything?”
What’s going on?
With our own project fears can hold us back. It’s very difficult because we as programmers or business people want to look for a logical explanation for this and logical solutions. We not used to using feelings to deal with a business problem. However in this is a case, most of the time a fear and uncertainty stop us from shipping our product or art out to the world.
The Lizard Brain
The answer to “Why can’t I finish anything?” may just be what best-selling author Seth Godin calls the lizard brain. The lizard brain tries to stop us from doing things because it is afraid! It calls to us, “Hey you are going to mess up! Everyone is going to laugh at you!, This is not good enough!”. The lizard brain is that little voice in our head which undermines our confidence.
My lizard brain is a borg lizard brain! If you’re not familiar with the Borg it is an enemy out of Star Trek which is highly adaptable to change even in the middle of a battle so they can be very difficult to defeat. Just as I start dealing with my fear or start to get a project near completion my lizard brain sneaks up on me. If I try to get around the lizard brain, the creature will change its tactics
A few tricks
I wish there was an easy solution to tell you to be able to get around this but because everybody’s brain is a bit different and everybody has different distractions it’s very difficult for one size fits all solution. One of the things my lizard brain likes to is to distract me with a computer game when I need to be getting a project done. This intensifies if I am very close to finishing a project. So one of the things I try to do to trick the lizard brain is I say ‘okay I’m going to go ahead and play this game’ But to trick it I’ll put on something to listen to while I play the game like for example an audiobook by Seth Godin or Bernadette Jiwa. Eventually, my brain gets bored with the game and inspired by the book. I’m then excited to do my work.
This one is a bit risky, but another trick I like to use is to go ahead and juggle three different projects one for a different part of the day my day job starts in the early morning, then a personal project in the afternoon, and a different one in the evening more geared towards a brain that is a bit tired. The reason I do that is that with creative work I tend to get bored after a couple of hours even though I was excited about it a few hours before so I’ll switch to a new project but I’ll always come back to the other one at that same time of day so I can get projects finished.
Limit what you start
I’ve also had to discipline myself not to start any more projects than I already have at least until I complete one. I do have a lot of projects that I start which always have maintenance to update and those I don’t count. Something will need to be finished before I can start anything new or I will just have a thousand projects started and nothing finished.
I wish I could tell you I’ve got the problem in hand, but it is a constant struggle. However, I’m shipping more than ever!
A few more tricks to defeat the lizard brain
Change locations – Go to a coffee shop or a park. Switch up the locations. Don’t go to the same ones too often or too many days in a row. I use an iPad with a keyboard and no internet. There isn’t anything to do except writing.
Breaking down tasks – If you set your goals small, they will be more likely to get done. The more that gets done the more confident you will feel. You can ride the momentum.
Don’t work under pressure – This actually used to work for me, but now I find that the more relaxed I am the more I get done, and the quality of the work improves. Try to create a relaxing working environment for yourself.
Rotate what you listen to – Most people listen to music, but some sort of talking is what I’ve always preferred. Now I’m finding that going between music, non-fiction audiobooks, fiction audiobooks, and natural sound effects like rain for waterfalls helps me to improve my productivity. Try it yourself.
Do short projects-If the project is short enough you can complete it before you get bored with it or have time to develop fears
By using these tricks I’ve been able to focus on what I do accomplish rather than asking myself, “Why can’t I finish anything”. I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful.
Have a very productive day!
Have you come up with any tricks of your own? I’d love to know.