Monday, June 20, 2011

How To Finish What You Start

Some of you may find this hard to believe, but there are many among us who never bring a project or chore to its final conclusion.  I call them the 80%-ers, because on average, that’s how far their efforts take them.  Almost finished, but not quite.

I know a young couple who own a gift/consignment shop, which offers one-of-a-kind art pieces from the “young and starving” artist community.  Among their suppliers is a middle-aged gentleman whom they have dubbed  “the magic carpenter.” He creates very elaborate dollhouses, birdcages and jewelry boxes that have been a favorite with the customers. The problem with most of these beautiful works of art is that they fall apart when handled, even in the most gentle way.

Just sitting on the store shelf they often “magically” collapse. The story goes that initially, the owners returned all the items that didn’t pass a gentle shaking test, with a very clear message:  More glue and nails, or don’t bother.

Assurances were given (“It won’t happen again,” etc.) Yet the “magic” continued at pretty much the same rate. This young couple, having exceptional patience, tried a few more times to convince the artist to completely finish his pieces before bringing them to the store. Nothing changed.   Liking him, and loving his creations, they now store tiny little nails and wood glue in the back room.

There is no known cure for this type of individual if they don’t want to be cured. I know, because I would have used it in my house years ago. My husband is also an 80%-er. Taking out the garbage, weeding, washing the dishes – I can’t think of a single chore that is ever really completed. For a woman who feels compelled to unpack everything from her suitcase and bags immediately upon arriving anywhere, living happily with a man like this is an act of sheer will.

So we can’t change anyone else if they don’t want to be changed, but if you are an 80%-er and want to defect to the 100%-er Team, science can help you.  It turns out that we become far less motivated when we think about how far we’ve come, rather than focusing on how far we have left to go.  This is what 80%-ers do – they say to themselves, “I got most of it finished.  Good for me. I deserve a break.”  In so doing, they end up feeling too satisfied with a job partly-done, and slack off. 

When you are doing any project at work or at home, don’t allow thoughts like “Look how far I’ve come.” Doing so will just take the wind out your sails before you finish! Instead tell yourself “I still have this much left to do, so I better get going!” This is the inner dialogue that makes the 100%-ers who they are. And while it isn’t necessarily fun to focus on how far you have left to go, it’s the surest way to end up getting there.

Good luck with your goal!

1 comment:

  1. Heidi, you're right ... just the way I'm having in my mind ...look how far I managed to get...:)
    My wife is not happy about my 80%-er but sometimes I'm thinking about smth else, not just about the goal like I should finish washing dishes or smth...and it comes naturally.
    I feel like it's the right way at least for chore.