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Here: you can read : "Often, tasks are delayed till a reasonable time before the deadline. Just because you feel like you can do it later; [blabla] ..."

This is not the real problem I've been facing for almost 20 years. The problem is that I never finish what I begin. Never. It's all about programming, but other simple things like trying to write a book, trying to learn piano, trying to make a furniture (= learn the basics of carpentry), and so on.

I very feel like if I'm about to finish a project, I'm trying to find something else to avoiding finishing it.

It's very strange.

It has never been a problem in my professional life, because software are almost never finished. But now that I'm unemployed this is getting on my nerves: I know exactly what I should do, how I should do it, but (including now) I always find things to do that could keep me away from finishing my stuff. Am I the only one, and if not, what do you do to motivate you 'till the end?

(Please don't hesitate correct my post, because my English is perfectible, thank you very much!)

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Just a note - I don't think "trying to write a book, trying to learn piano, trying to make a furniture" are simple things! All your projects sound fairly difficult. Not that this isn't a good thing, but don't sell yourself short! – weronika Oct 31 '11 at 1:18
I don't know how to place an answer for the question, so I do it as a comment. From my point of view, you do not finish your projects, just because you don't want to do that. Of course you think you should, you must, it will be good if... But. In the end, in your (so called hearth) - you don't want it. You don't love it. You don't miss it. So. Every technology or strategy like GTD, will not help you. You need to work, with your EMOTIONS towards goal of your projects, and towards your attitude. This is the only task you can or should do. – Zbyszek Jul 12 '14 at 9:18
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I faced the same problem as you are describing it. I am working on a personal project, every day but I was not moving as I wanted to move. I was always busy to do something for the project, but realize that although you are busy you can still be lazy (C.J. Mahaney).

This view helped me a lot. I read a lot of productivity, but never did a weekly review on a consistent basis. Do it! This is really something I missed! A weekly review just helps you to refocus so much! In this review you should take a feature that you want to implement and plan when you are going to work on it in the following week, in a calendar! Why you did not finish it will tell you your next review so you can work on this problem!

And try to focus just on the issues you planned for the week. I was reading too much interesting stuff that was related but was not really bringing me to move on.

Hope that helps.

Edit: What should be done in a review:

  • review single long-term and short-term goal: Short-Term goal is the one you could accomplish the next week.
  • review notes: Collected notes during the week
  • review calendar: What was planed and what accomplished. Are there still tasks to be done? Does some accomplished task trigger others?
  • review todo-lists
  • set short-term goal for the week: Split the goal and form your the big rocks.

(from Zen To Done)

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So you suggest to do a very clear plan each week? So that I focus on it, and that should help me to finish my project? – Olivier Pons Oct 27 '11 at 8:43
The important part is the review every week. I do mine every Friday morning. It is important to do it, so you get a picture for yourself why you did not did what you wanted to do. – hellectronic Oct 27 '11 at 9:17
Thank you I'll try to do that. Every monday I'll make my plan, every Friday I'll do my review. Thanks for the advice. – Olivier Pons Oct 27 '11 at 20:28
Do it all on Friday :) – hellectronic Oct 28 '11 at 7:42
Ok. Easy to say but hard to do... I'll try anyway :) – Olivier Pons Oct 29 '11 at 7:04

I face the same problem too for as long as I can remember. I am eager to start projects but never have the stamina or my interest dries up quickly before I finish them.

The only way I could put a stop to this detrimental behaviour was to: 1. Make my project known publically to my family and close friends. 2. Wake up at 5 am to work on my project.

I told my friends about the weight loss programme than I starting. This made them ask me every now and then about my weight, which leads me to actually work on the threadmill at home.

Which I do at 5 am in the morning. Yes, I force myself to wake up earlier and walk 45 minutes on the threadmill before spending another 45 minutes studying and then I prepare myself for work.

You just wont believe how this has helped me finally to overcome my demons of procrastination!

This may or may not work for you but I found that having others check on your progress was the push I needed. I know it an external push and some many complain its not internally driven but I had to resort to external pushes to overcome my procrastination and lack of focus.

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"having others check on your progress was the push I needed". This is maybe because I'm doing it the opposite way: each time I've started a project, I talked about it to everyone around and I didn't finish it so it kinddof made me not reliable, and now I've decided not to talk about it until it is finished. But you're right, maybe I need some people to ask about my project, some people who could motivate me (my wife does the opposite that's maybe why I took the wrong way)... I don't know actually. Thanks for the hint I'll think about that! – Olivier Pons Oct 29 '11 at 6:30
This can be a way for some. Other suggest this way, to communicate their goal to others. This could work for a goal, sure. But I do not think in the long run. For me this sounds like a wrong motivation, because you are maybe not doing things to finish them, but rather to get the approval of the others. You center yourself on others opinion rather on your inner center. – hellectronic Oct 31 '11 at 10:28
@hellectronic I agree with your comment on external approval. I wish I could have the internal drive. I tried to have it for many years, thinking I dont need external pushes, I am self driven. But it never worked for me. But now that I have a goal to accomplish and people cheering me on and making me accountable, its become like a game for me. And I am trying to make other things (like studying PhD) into a game, something I can achieve in small blocks and rejoice. I am making small progress. Like I said. This may or may not work for everyone but it got me started and I am grateful for it. – KennethG Nov 6 '11 at 7:39
@KennethG Then: Never change a running system :D – hellectronic Nov 7 '11 at 9:33

I pick 2-3 projects at a time.When i start any project, I set myself a deadline of 6 weeks(sometimes a month). I write down what I want to achieve in that period. Condition is that these goals should give me a "shippable product". I do this, so that I am not at the 6 week mark "mid way" through something.

Say I plan on learning the guitar, I'll probably set a goal to learn to play a certain few songs; or learn some scales; chords, whatever.Developing a software, a fixed set of features. You get the point.

After 6 weeks, if I achieved my target..great. Otherwise...oh well. Then I check my projects/interests list...and pick another 2-3 from them. If I am still interested in continuing with the previous project, I give it another 6 weeks and another set of goals, if not I do something else.

Since you are in software, it is something what like Agile methodology(with severe ADD every 6 weeks)

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My answer is in conjunction with JB King's reply. You need to have a defined target. "Learn Piano" is very vague...what do you want to do...learn a few songs to impress friends? compose? play at carnegie hall. If you have a defined target, you are more likely to achieve it – SandeepR Oct 27 '11 at 5:04

You're saying you're "trying to find something else to avoiding finishing" each of your projects. One possibility that jumped out at me is that maybe you don't want to be done with them - you want to have something to look forward to and keep working on, so the idea of finishing a project is not very motivating. You have nothing more to look forward to once you're finished.

You could try an experiment with extending your definition of "finished" to see if it changes how you act. Instead of telling yourself you're going to "finish" learning piano, for instance, at the point where you can play a few songs, buy yourself some more advanced books and tell yourself you can or even should keep going. Maybe having more advanced things to look forward to will let you get to the point of learning a few songs more easily?

If that turns out to be the case, maybe you're just more motivated by things that can always be improved than by things that are finished once and then have to be left alone, and you could try choosing projects that work better with your motivation structure - ones that, like software, are never really finished.

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i think what makes a procrastinater, like me, to work is making a list of everything i want to do. i dont restrict myself with a time limit because that freaks me out. planning in advance and marking everything i did finish, gives me a kind of ego boost and that makes me carry one with the rest of the list.

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The problem is that I never finish what I begin. Never.

Uh, didn't you finish writing out your question? Didn't you finish eating a meal recently? Finish getting sleep sometime in the last 72 hours? There are probably a number of things you do finish though I'm not sure you see that. Is that additional never intended for emphasis or a negation of the initial point?

It's all about programming, but other simple things like trying to write a book, trying to learn piano, trying to make a furniture (= learn the basics of carpentry), and so on.

How well are some of the ends defined there? For example, what parameters do you have around "writing a book" or "trying to learn piano" as if left vague there is so much wiggle room that it could be almost trivial to prove this true or false really. Does "writing a book" mean it actually gets to a major publishing house and gets millions of copies in print? What kinds of bounds do you have on these things as chances are you may be surprised how far you did get on some of these if you can get an outside perspective of how far did you get and what kind of standard are you trying to meet. Not everyone will sell like J.K. Rowling or Agatha Christie, to name a couple of famous British authors, you know.

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Writing a book = finish it so it can be published, no matter how many copies I sell. Learn Piano = be able to play at least one or two simple songs and be able to read simple partition. And so on. Basic stantards... – Olivier Pons Oct 27 '11 at 8:45

I certainly can relate to your question since I have loads of unfinished projects and ideas behind me (and possibly ahead of me). One thing that has helped me a lot is to actually have a user/audience for the project - someone that will have a use for what I do. That alone gives me motivation to finish.

And when it comes to focusing on important tasks rather than surfing the intrawebz I have had lots of help by the pomodoro technique. It is really simple but it works! I use it mostly for my spare time projects where it is easiest to stray away with something else.

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Try breaking them down into the smallest pieces possible. In you can have unlimited levels of sub-projects and tasks.

I recommend making a very detailed plan with as many sub-projects and tasks as you can think of. There is something very satisfying about clicking the complete button. That small victory from even the smallest of action can least to another and another and before you know it you have worked on your project for an hour or more!

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