I love starting a new project. There is something special about that energetic buzz that occurs at the beginning of each new project. It is a wonderful time filled with positive energy, happiness, and excitement. The same can be said when you finish a project too - it is a magnificent feeling to see something through to completion, where you can stand back and admire your own work and feel proud of your achievement.
Unfortunately actually finishing a project is a hard thing to do.
I know this because I am fantastic at starting new projects and making quick progress. I get motivated and the work flows easily and the project runs smoothly. At least it does at the start anyway.
I believe most things in life, including projects, follow the Pareto principle (aka the 80-20 rule). It is a basic data modelling formula which says that 80% of whatever your are measuring normally comes from only 20% of the sample population.
This rings true for most projects across all aspects of our lives. We can complete 80% of a project with as little as 20% of the total effort. This is the early stage of the project where everything progresses beautifully, but there will come a point where the ratio inverts. You will reach a time where the remaining 20% of effort will take you 80% of the total project time and it is during this time that motivation drops, progress is stagnated, and you run the risk of not finishing the project at all.
I've met this barrier many times in my life so I know how tough it can be to push through it. I've also failed to, or chosen not to, push through it many times too so I also know how unsatisfying it feels to leave a project unfinished. But recently I've developed a few questions that I use to help me stay on track and complete my projects.
Is/Was It Worth Starting In The First Place?
Sometimes your idea is actually not that good to begin with. Before starting a new project, or when struggling to maintain motivation, you need to reassess the original idea. Is it actually a good idea? Is it something is actually worth spending time on? Is it worth it?
You might realise that your original idea, which you thought was the best thing since sliced bread, is actually not so good. That's ok, because I'm going to let you in on a secret - you don't have to finish every project you start.
Is It Worth Finishing?
Re-read that last sentence. You honestly don't have to finish every single project you start. In fact I will go as far as to say that if you did so you would be wasting your time.
You're not perfect and every idea you have is not a great one. Some ideas you have are rubbish. Some of these rubbish ideas you will actually have to start working on first before you realise they are rubbish, but when you do make that realisation any more work on the project becomes wasted time.
Some ideas are not worth finishing, no matter how far you've progressed. You could be 95% complete before you realise it, but once you do it is time to let it go and move on to the next project.
How Will You Know When You Are Finished?
It may sound like a dumb question, but too many people start a pet project with nothing but a wafty idea of whatever they are trying to achieve. Naughty!
When you start something you need to make sure you understand exactly what "finished" is. Even if you have future ideas, or phases, for your project it is best to view them as separate projects with separate time frames. Each part needs a definitive milestone which signals that the project is over, otherwise it will end up feeling like one never-ending project and that can be a huge drain on motivation.
Every project needs to have a clear finish and it needs to be quantifiable. That way when you reach the end you will be 100% sure the project is finished and you can start celebrating!
Celebrate The Finish
Every project must have a celebration at the finish. The celebration is the absolute final task in the project. Without a celebration the project is never actually finished.
The celebration should be fun and relaxing with a focus on enjoying the success of finishing a project. If it was a big project then make the celebration big too. This is why smart companies have launch parties when they release a new product - it is a tangible end to finish the project, it gives employees the opportunities to appreciate some recognition for their hard work, and it also promotes the business.
The same thing happens for any personal project you do. Just finished a big renovation? Host a party with your friends to celebrate! Been working long hours at home to start your business? Take the family out somewhere special when you finish. Whatever the project is it will need a celebration when it's finished. Enjoy it.
Once you finish a project (don't forget the celebration) then it is an ideal time to use your recent experiences to look toward the future. Think about the good and bad of the last project, whether it was actually worth it, and identify what you will do better in the future. Don't spend too long at this stage though because you're next successful project is waiting for you.