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6 solid ways to finish projects strong

By Clay Morgan

Why write about finishing well? Because our great starts will amount to little if we cannot complete what we set out to accomplish.

I know well the frustration and pain of not finishing well. In fact, this article should have been completed a couple weeks earlier than it was. Oh, the irony of failing to complete an article on finishing strong.

Nothing else gives the satisfaction that accompanies completing something. Unfortunately, sometimes we dive in and make a big push, only to trail off somewhere along the line. When we fail to accomplish our goals, the pressure inside us mounts. We tighten up and may become almost paralyzed. Worse yet, we suffer an ongoing sense of guilt and ineffectiveness or incompetence.

So what keeps us from finishing? Family responsibilities, health issues, other professional obligations or financial concerns can all create challenges. It may be that our goals were simply unrealistic from the outset.

When we blow it, the first step is to own our inability to finish. We can then understand what derailed our progress and do better next time.

Here are six ways to become a better finisher.

1. Get started.

We can’t finish until we start. I know, super obvious, but how often do we spin grand plans and then fail to act of them.

This article is an example of inaction. I knew what I needed to do and how to do it, but day after day, I allowed one thing after the next to keep me from starting.

Sometimes all you need to get started is a reminder. Consider using simple personal productivity apps like Any.do to schedule tasks. Any.do will send you “push” message reminders in the morning and reward you with positive messages when you finish. Imagine checking off a task in the app and seeing an encouraging pop-up that says “Like a boss!” Granted, you may have only gotten a much-needed haircut, but those words will brighten anyone’s day!

2. Begin with the end in mind.

Stephen Covey’s second among the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” works well as our second strategy for becoming a better finisher: Make sure you have a specific idea of what exactly you intend to accomplish. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there.”

In the church, we often speak of calling. Knowing where you are called to go clarifies what you intend to accomplish. What is the unique or specific vision of your church?

3. Set reasonable goals.

It’s great to get to the gym in January, but that initial burst won’t mean much if we’re not still there in December. The same is true for almost every endeavor.

When figuring out how to tackle your projects, ask yourself the right questions before making making ministry investments.

It’s important to dream big and shoot for the moon, but you must calculate costs and define what you need to realize your church’s vision. Be realistic. If you decide to greenlight a project, break it into manageable steps. We can be just as overwhelmed by working on too many tasks at once as we can be by taking on a single task that is too large to handle.

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4. Measure your progress.

Give yourself a timeline with checkpoints. Communicators may need to create an editorial calendar to share with others. If the project is large enough, divide the work into stages and set up checkpoints to monitor along the way. If you manage a team, these markers will be critical for tracking who is responsible for what and how he or she is doing.

5. Remember the rewards.

Why did you begin the project? What were you excited about accomplishing that caused you to dream? Monitoring progress isn’t just about keeping work on track. It is also key to measuring success and recognizing strong effort.

Jesus set the example here, enduring the hardest path to a finish line ever, and he did so by remembering the joy set before him. It’s good to remember future rewards, so celebrate every small victory along the way!

6. “Just ship it.”

Popular author, Seth Godin, often reinforced the concept to “just ship it.” The idea is that sometimes we do better by getting something out the door or delivered, even if we think someone else can make it better.

When the deadline for my first book arrived and I had to turn it into the publisher, I told my editor that I still didn’t feel the work was done. He said, “You’re never done; just submit it.”

Anything can be improved, but perfectionism can stall us. Do your best, then move the project along.

Whether beginning a new project, picking up a once-abandoned task or starting a new appointment altogether, we do well to finish and to finish well.

As leaders, it’s not only about our personal productivity. We also need to coach our people through the  work they’re engaged in by modeling what consistent performance and effective completion look like. See you at the finish line!

Clay Morgan

Clay Morgan is an author from Dallas, Texas who spent a decade teaching college courses in the social sciences before becoming a consultant in communications and organizational strategy. Clay enjoys writing at the intersection of culture and spirituality. He has done ministry with college students for years and loves finding creative ways to engage millennials.