Stay on Task and Follow Through- 7 Secrets to Finishing What You’ve Started
Serial entrepreneurs are often “multi-passionate” and have what is sometimes jokingly referred to as “the shiny object syndrome”- with curious minds and an excitement for new ideas, new opportunities and new projects, we sometimes have a little trouble staying on task and finishing the projects we start.
You know how it is:
You wake up at 4am with the most brilliant idea you think you’ve ever had. Jumping out of bed, you excitedly fire up your laptop and start writing down ideas. Maybe you even start looking for the perfect domain for the website for your new project (because, you know, no matter what it is you feel you MUST have a website).
Days, or even weeks go by, and you put all your time and energy in; but then suddenly begin to realize that it’s a way bigger endeavor than you anticipated. You find a little less time each day to work on your venture, until one day you wake up and realize that it has been months since you worked on it, and it’s now a distant dream; it, like so many other projects you started and never finished, is on the shelf.
Believe it or not, this is a fairly common scenario among entrepreneurs. And, it doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than beating your self up and calling yourself all kinds of nasty names like “loser” or “quitter”, give yourself a break, congratulate yourself for having the creativity it takes to come up with all those wonderful ideas, and take into account some of the following advice.
1. Allow yourself to have playtime.
Dabbling with different ideas and learning is a very important part of being; it’s an especially important part of being an entrepreneur. Give yourself permission to play. Set aside some time each day to surf the web, read articles, spend some time getting social, writing, brainstorming, and fantasizing. One of the greatest aspects of the entrepreneurs mind is its incredible capacity for discovery and imagination. Nurture that- don’t ever disregard it as a waste of time. Your next brilliant success may just come as a result of “time suck”.
2. Put yourself on a project diet.
Set a ground rule that you are only allowed to take on one project at a time and that you cannot take on another until you complete or ditch the first one.
3. Develop your cognitive control.
Some experts say that cognitive control is the “singular mental ability” that can forecast success, and happiness, in school, work, and life in general.
So what is it? Cognitive control is the ability to manage your attention. Depending on which expert is giving opinion, it can be defined as impulse control, gratification deferral, self-discipline, emotional self-control, thought-regulation (the ability to recognize and repress irrelevant thoughts), attention sufficiency, and learning readiness.
Researchers have begun to look at mindfulness and how it affects attention span and focus. It has been suggested that there are certain mindfulness exercises that people can do to develop cognitive control to increase productivity, and attention ability.
Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco calls it “the ability to self-regulate your internal distractions”, and suggests teaching yourself to pay attention to your musings. Rather than allowing yourself to become distracted from a chosen focus, notice extraneous and irrelevant thoughts, and without judgment or further distraction, renew your concentration- much like what is taught about meditation.
In fact, meditation, says Dr. Gazzaley, is an exercise that can play a key role in training the area of the brain that is responsible for cognitive control.
Here are a few things you can do to develop that control:
- Mediate daily.
- Define your completion; when you have a defined goal to accomplish, you can keep your eye on the target.
- Practice “wearing blinders” by turning off, or shutting out, all extraneous noise, distraction and interruption.
- Play video games (seriously) that require multi tasking and a wide or divided attention span.
4. Keep the scope as simple as possible.
The idea here is to start small- you can always expand later if you want to- but start with something that feels doable. If the project is too complex and you feel overwhelmed right out of the gate, you likely won’t make even the first leg of the journey.
5. Make it public – fast.
Set a goal to get your project out in some working form to the public as quickly as you possibly can. Once it is “live” you will feel an added responsibility to keep up with it and continue to build and improve on it.
6. Develop specific, measurable objectives with a clear execution plan.
Obviously, you know that you need to set goals, but did you know you need to set goals for your goals? Rather than just saying, “develop an online magazine for eco-conscious, high vibrational living”, say that, and then add all the specific objectives, milestones and tasks needed to accomplish your goal.Your project won’t have a prayer of being successful, or on budget, if you don’t have clear, measurable expectations and goals along the road to getting there.
Lay a foundation, using mind-mapping strategies or tools, and implement a good project management system that will allow you to track progress and maintain organization of your tasks, and those of the people on your team if you have one.
7. Do it, delegate it, or dump it.
When you allow tasks to pile up, your project can quickly become overwhelming- becoming overwhelmed often leads to becoming completely paralyzed. Take action, source it to someone else or be done with it. If you find you need to be done with it, you may want to reconsider the project altogether, taking yourself back to: Keep the scope as simple as possible.
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