Years ago I had a bad habit of stopping short of finishing a task. For example, instead of walking a few more feet and hanging my bathrobe on the hook in the closet, I draped it over the tub. Folded clothes were set on the dresser instead of in the dresser. And minor mending projects piled up for years.
My reasons for not finishing were different. I would just need my robe again later in the day, so why hang it up? I cleared one area of the house of folded laundry, but just moved it elsewhere. And I intended to do the mending when I had a few projects so I only had to get out the sewing kit once.
All logical reasons to delay completing a task, but my procrastination resulted in a messy house and lots of stress as I rushed to get most things done at deadline. I used to say if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.
Today I’ve got a devotion running on Encouragement for Today on the subject of finishing what we start. Although I’ve made great gains, it’s still an area I struggle with. But it’s one I work on continually because the consequences of not finishing well are more devastating than a cluttered house.
Although my examples at the beginning of this post were of common household tasks that don’t get finished, the pattern of not finishing well weaves through all areas of life. It’s not just a robe that doesn’t get hung, it’s a degree that doesn’t get finished. Or a new calling that doesn’t get answered. It’s not just mending that piles up, it’s good intentions to reach out to neighbors that aren’t acted upon.
I don’t want a life littered with unfulfilled dreams, wish-I-had’s and regrets. I don’t want to look back and say “I should have (fill in the blank)“! I don’t want to quit an important assignment because it got too hard, or too complicated, or boring.
Finishing well is a habit we can develop. And it’s one some of us must address if we want to be obedient to God’s call on our lives. Hopefully I can share some tips that will help you stay on track. And at the end I’d love to hear from you as well.
Tip 1: Get firm with yourself. I have to tell myself “Finish what you start.” I say it out loud or say it in my head when I find myself wanting to put off a simple task that I can easily do in the moment.
Tip 2: Evaluate the internal reasons why you aren’t finishing a task. As I said, my reasons are varied. But they aren’t usually wise. The more introspective I’ve become the more I can deal with the root of my issues.
Tip 3: Evaluate the external reasons why you aren’t finishing a task. Here’s an example of how I did this. I mentioned mending piled up. Usually it piled up in my laundry room (which is downstairs) where I tend to discover the problems. But my sewing kit is upstairs. So I created a small mending kit and keep it by my washing machine. Now it just takes a few minutes to sew on a button or sew up a loose seam.
Tip 4. Monotask. I’m easily distracted. It’s not due to any attention disorder, I just have a lot going on in my mind. So sometimes I need to simplify what I’m trying to do and rein in my focus on just one task. My daily to-do list only has a few things on it too, otherwise I get overwhelmed. You can read how I manage all my responsibilities with a project management planner.
Tip 5. Do less. All of you who know me well are probably scoffing at this tip. Because my friends and family know I manage a lot of things in my life. However, there is a lot I say no to. In fact, I just stepped down from a committee at church when its time demands exceeded my availability. My agent is waiting patiently for my next book proposal but my time has been consumed with family needs. And I don’t promote myself as a speaker because of those same family needs. I’d rather do a few things with excellence than many things with mediocrity.
Of course, as I mentioned in my devotion, the best model of finishing well is Jesus. So spending time studying His life is really my best tip. Seeking our Father’s will, being obedient and depending on His strength when ours grows weak is better than any time management or productivity book I’ll ever read.
I’d love to hear your thought on finishing well. What works for you? Please click here to leave a comment on my blog. And thanks so much for joining me today.
Grace & Peace,
P.S. Next Monday I’m starting a back-to-school series. For 10 days I’ll have a word of encouragement for moms who are having a tough time sending someone to school (including college moms), a Word from the Bible, and a tip for back-to-school organizing. My friend Karen Ehman (who wrote the “Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized”) will be my special guest for those two Fridays. I hope you’ll come back next Monday and join us.