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Why You Need to Follow Through (and what it's costing you not to) 


Episodes 60 of The Vendor's Daughter

I don’t know about you but I am not good at finishing projects. I’m really god at dreaming them up, about getting them started but then really bad at crossing the finish line.

I’ve always known this about myself, in a distant sense, meaning I was aware of it but tried to avoid it into not existing. But there’s something about being married that forces you to deal with some things you have tried to ignore. There’s something really beautiful but also really frustrating about being married to someone who sees you every day, in all your different elements, in other words they see all the good, the bad and the ugly and have a special way of calling you out on your junk. , or put a nicer way of speaking hard truths into your life.

Since we’ve been living together, Ryan has really brought to my attention that I struggle with follow through. My intentions are good and I might start off strong but historically speaking my energy dies off and whatever grand task I started gets left behind, pushed to another day or forgotten about completely.

At first, I wanted to continue to deny it and I was frustrated that he couldn’t accept me for who I was (why can’t you just love me as I am?). But he was right, and just because I have created a negative habit doesn’t mean that that’s who I am and just because I’ve behaved poorly doesn’t meant that I need to continue to do so.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the negative impact that my lack of follow through was having on my life. Here are the four most prominent ways I could think of that my inability to finish what I started was negatively affecting my life.

  1. Perceived as a Flake – I was earning a bad reputation of being a flake, of over promising and under delivering. Intentions are good but they mean nothing if you don’t follow through on the commitments you make. If you make a habit of not showing up on time, of not finishing projects, of not sticking to deadlines, people don’t take you seriously, they stop depending on you and they stop listening to what you have to say.

  2. Lowered Self-Esteem – The more unfinished projects that stacked up, the longer my to-do list became the lower my confidence in my own abilities became. I started believing that I was someone who couldn’t accomplish anything, that couldn’t be successful because they didn’t have the proper tools or discipline to do what needed to be done.

  3. Burn Out – Half completed projects leave you drained and confused. Your brain can’t rest because it’s constantly ping ponging back and forth trying to determine what actually needs done and what is nonsense. In other words your own brain stops taking you seriously, you start thinking you don’t have enough time, or energy, you tail spin and accomplish a small fraction of what you are capable of.

  4. Wasted Money – In my personal and professional life I could look around and see the dollar signs piling up on projects never finished. In my personal life if looked like books never read, gifts never shipped, cards never sent, healthy recipes never made (which was a waste of cookbooks and food purchased). In my professional life it looked like sales meetings I went to but never followed afterwards on, or an online store that I sat on for three years, I paid for it every month regardless of the fact that it wasn’t ready to launch. And why? Because I wasn’t honest with myself about my time limitations or my priorities. Things sounded like a good idea so I went with it.

So that’s me. Everything I just confessed was written in a past tense but if I’m honest the struggle is still real. I get easily excited, I believe in my abilities too strongly and to this day I haven’t mastered the concept of planning ahead. But I’m getting better, a work in progress; here are four things I’ve been doing to help me be less flaky (I highly recommend you borrow them):

  1. Ask Questions – Do you realistically have time to finish the project you want to start? Do you have the budget to start this? Do you already have other unfinished projects? If no, great! Get started. If yes, and if they are important projects you need to ask yourself why those projects aren’t finished. Is it something you can’t control? Are you waiting on someone or something else? If it is within your control, do not take on more until you finish what you already started.

  2. Say No – Say no to what you want right now so you can say yes to what you want MOST. It can be really distracting to focus on what you want now. Staying focused on a big project is hard because it seems too tedious or hard. It’s easier to stay busy on the things we already know how to do (i.e emails), then to tackle a larger project. Don’t get distracted with busy work. Don’t get distracted by what’s easy. Busy is not productive. Busy does not drive the needle forward.

  3. List Unfinished Projects – Don’t be embarrassed. Just take some time and list out all of your commitments. Have you over committed? Take some time to decide what you aren’t go to do. Free yourself from the things you don’t NEED or truly desire to do. Are you REALLY going to read those books? If yes, take your time and enjoy them when you’re free but stop buying new ones. If no, then take them to Half Priced Book Store or a donation center and move on with your life.

  4. Prioritize – Prioritize the remaining projects and create a realistic plan on how you are going to finish them. I recommend giving the first parts of your day to these projects, before emails, before distractions of other team or family members. The easiest way I know to protect the important work from busy work is to give it the first efforts of your day.

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