If you're someone who finds it hard to complete projects and finish tasks, you're not alone. Research suggests that 15% - 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. 25% of adults even acknowledge that procrastination goes with their personality.
We all know how essential goal-setting is to getting the life we want. And new ideas pop up all the time. It's no wonder why most people set big goals. But, we often get so excited about starting projects that we don't even realize the time and effort it takes to get from start to finish. And that sets us up for failure.
While procrastination seems prevalent, this personality trait is by no means set in stone. You'd be surprised that with just a few simple changes to your daily routine, you'll go from "can't-finish-anything" to someone who's consistently producing.
What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others
We all know that person who always seems to be getting things done. We've always wondered how they work as diligently and quickly as they do. Even if you don't seem to know anyone like that, these people exist, and they're among us.
So, what makes them different than you and me? What's the distinction that makes them able to complete project after project, task after task?
These people may seem like they're capable of inhuman feats on the surface. But the truth is, they're no different from you and me.
These "living machines" just managed to create the proper habits early on and have stuck to them ever since. And as a human with a functioning brain, you can do that too!
How to Finish a Big Project - 7 Proven Advice
You can't beat procrastination and bad habits overnight. But you definitely can start small and compound your progress. Compounding your improvements over time eventually results in a big productivity explosion. Here are seven practical and realistic ways to increase productivity and finish what you start.
1. Go For S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Visualizing a goal often gets us fired up, even if that goal is too general. "I want to get fit;" I want to hit that project deadline;" "I want to be more productive this year." These statements sound bland. We hate getting down into details because it reminds us of the amount of work we have to do.
How It Works
The next time you set up a goal, make it S.M.A.R.T. Short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Limited; SMART goals are on a whole other level.
Here's why; So instead of saying, "I want to hit that deadline," going SMART means you'll have to reword that into something like "Write six pages a day, Mondays to Saturdays. Each page writes in an hour, from 9 am to 4 in the afternoon."
Notice the difference? The second statement is measurable, realistic, and tied to a specific timeframe. With this SMART goal, you'll be sure to finish that book in time for an August deadline.
2. Set Up a System (Or Systems)
Now that you know the right way of setting goals, it's time to make them happen. But did you know there's a way to streamline goal attainment? You can make the journey less cluttered by having systems in place. These systems are uniquely yours, based on the habits you're trying to cultivate.
How It Works
Systems allow us to think less, conserve our energy, and make the most of our resources. So apart from improving your book-writing ethic, you may have other habits you're trying to foster. A system allows you to organize all of your S.M.A.R.T goals.
Instead of mindlessly juggling different tasks and projects, create customized plans each day, month, and year. Ever seen automated workflows in action? The flow of tasks is so smooth you could almost skate on it. Putting up a system shouldn't be complicated. Start by creating a daily to do list.
3. Commit to Just a Few Minutes
So you've made your goal S.M.A.R.T. and have begun setting up a system in your life, starting with today's to-do list. You know what you need to do, and it's all laid down on paper. Yet, it's not getting done. You find it hard to focus, and the slightest distractions impact your momentum.
How It Works
Remember what I said about starting small? Small steps require very little energy, and it seems that there's nothing impressive about them. But small steps compound over time. And they may very well be the "keystone" habits that will lay the foundation for the other fantastic habits that'll get you from point A to point B.
So, how small is a "small step?" Believe it or not, "just five minutes" is all you need to ask of yourself. If you feel like stopping at the end of it, that's all right. The important thing is to start.
If you keep at it, "just five minutes" will turn into an hour, then a few hours. Before you know it, you'll have built momentum so massive that you'd have no trouble finishing any project.
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4. Use Implementations Intentions
So you now know how to build momentum. The next thing to focus on is preparing for emergencies. Like it or not, human emotions tend to vary radically. One day, you appear possessed with unbreakable discipline. The next, logical thinking seems to be taking a day off.
Think of the last time a decision resulted in a bad outcome. Maybe you went for a whipped cream frappe instead of your usual Americano. Or maybe you've lashed out at your spouse, resulting in an hour-long argument that sucked up your energy; you no longer have any for starting that new project.
How It Works
There are times when emotions can ruin decisions, especially when having a plain bad day. We need to anticipate and prepare for these scenarios.
For these, we'll need a strategy called "implementations intentions." It's a fancy term for having a pre-defined plan for what to do when you happen to be at your weakest moments. "My spouse and I don't always agree, and that's okay. I'll be listening more to her opinion the next time it happens. After all, she does listen to mine."
5. Connect With Your End Vision
You've finally created momentum and have automated your decision-making when experiencing less-than-desirable moods. But to truly ensure you remain on track, you must learn to stay connected with your end vision. High-performance and creative people often do that through a powerful technique called visualization.
How It Works
Visualization is like a muscle. The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes. And the more you "see" yourself in the outcome you value, the more propelled you'll be towards that outcome. You can't miss it if you want a significant momentum boost.
Visualize small goals since the closer you are to something, the easier it gets to visualize. And every time you hit a small target, you get a dopamine hit, fueling your motivation.
At the same time, keep visualizing the big picture target even if it's far off at the moment. That way, it's never out of mind.
6. Measure Your Progress
For many people, failure happens not because of unclear goals. People can lose sight of their vision simply by failing to monitor their progress. When you track your progress and know where you stand, it will also be a lot easier to visualize, making it likelier for you to finish things.
Science suggests that frequent progress monitoring increases your chances of goal success. It puts you in a better position to break that bad habit eventually. It also helps you establish baselines that you can use to break down goals into bite-sized and realistic chunks.
How It Works
Find yourself waking up later than you used to? Start tracking the time you sleep each night. Want to know how much progress you're making on that diet plan? Use a daily food calculator and step tracker, and record how much weight you lost each week.
Whatever type of goal you're trying to track, there's bound to be a tool or app that can help you, whether you're monitoring weight, productivity, or habits. You can even opt for your traditional pen and notebook. As long it's measurable, you can track it.
7. Reward Your Progress
If you've been following this advice so far, I'm pretty sure you've already made some breakthroughs. So, ensure to consistently reward yourself for completing a task or finishing a project. Setting up a reward system keeps you motivated and gives you more reasons to power through challenges.
How It Works
Completing a task gives a spike of dopamine in your brain, which induces feelings of pleasure. This system is what nails down habits, creating a loop that makes the pattern easier to implement.
Now, this internal reward structure doesn't develop overnight. At first, you're going to make some real effort. Remember our "just five minutes" rule, which you build on over time? It will take some time before your brain associates your hard work with a dopamine hit.
So, before that happens, you might as well go with external rewards. Before starting a big project, ask yourself, "what reward would compel me to follow through on all the work necessary to finish this project?"
Bonus: Practice Daily Accountability
Accountability and productivity are deeply connected. It's easy to be productive while you enjoy working on a project. But the moment you lose drive, it can be as tough nails to work on just a simple task. I'm sure you know that you can't rely on motivation alone.
Accountability is a standard that you impose on your life. It becomes part of who you are and compels you to remain productive no matter how you're feeling.
How It Works
If you're wondering, "Now that seems a bit too harsh. What happened to starting small?" Like any other skill, accountability can be learned and taught. You just have to practice it daily.
You've probably heard a lot about people taking on accountability "buddies" to keep them in check. When you practice accountability with yourself, a buddy, or a coach, you're setting up a quality that allows you to take responsibility instead of an excuse.
Can An Accountability Coach Help?
You can always find accountability buddies to help you build momentum. While you can absolutely do this thing independently, a partner can provide you with the proper support and living example you need. With a committed partner, you get the proper nudge every time you lose track of your goals.
But before you go out there and start on your hunt for an accountability buddy, remember one essential thing: most accountability relationships don't last.
Research shows that peer accountability is not as effective for goal attainment as individual professional coaching. Why? Most peer-to-peer accountability relationships drop off due to a lack of commitment or goal alignment.
Personal experience with unreliable accountability buddies is one of the reasons why our cofounders developed GoalsWon. Unlike well-meaning but unreliable strangers on the internet, our coaches are dedicated professionals. And they'll be with you every day to help you succeed in your journey.