By January 9, 2014

The Importance Of Finishing What You Started

If you are like me you probably have a long history of projects that are 90% or less done.
I've had a real problem in my life with finishing what I started.  But, once I actually started completing the things I started, I learned that the payoff for doing so is huge.
In this video, I talk about why it is so important to learn to finish what you start and give you some tips on how to do it.


Full transcription:

Hey, John Sonmez from and today I want to talk to you about a problem that I’ve had a lot in life and that I know a lot of people struggle with and it’s something that really can hold you back if you don’t figure out how to get over this.

What I’m talking about is finishing what you started.  I used to have a real big problem with finishing what I started.  In fact, I know from talking to a lot of other developers, a lot of people in general that this is a pretty common problem.  Let me describe to you what this problem looks like, at least for me.

I would often start a project, I’d be really gung-ho about starting that project and I’m really excited about it when I first would start doing it, whatever that project was.  And then somewhere along the lines, maybe when I get to 90%, sometimes when I get to 10%, but somewhere along the line I would quit before I’d get to the end.

Now, I wouldn’t intentionally quit.  What happens is I would back off from it.  I would just put it sort of on the backburner for a little bit and I would forget about it.  Or I would start to taper off of it.  Sometimes I’d throw things out altogether, but most of the time in my mind I thought that I’m going to finish this thing, I’m just going to do this new thing right now because this is more exciting and I’ll get back to that old thing.

Well, 90% of the time I didn’t get back to the old thing and I left projects unfinished.  There’s a big problem with leaving things unfinished which is that you don’t get any benefit from them.  If you cook your meal 90% of the way, you can’t really eat it, can you?  If you create a house 90% of the way, you can’t really live in it, can you?  If you build software 90% of the way, you can’t really sell it.  If you write a book 90% of the way, well, I guess you can pre-sell it but eventually you’re going to have to finish that thing if you don’t want everyone asking for refunds.

So there’s a real big problem with not finishing what you’ve started and the big problem, the biggest problem with not finishing with what you’ve started is that you expend a lot of time and you don’t get any return on that investment.

One way to think about this is let’s say that I set up this scenario and I said, “Okay, here’s the deal, you can give me $100.  If you give me $100 I’m going to give you back $200 but you can only give me the $100 in increments of 10.”  Now, it would be pretty silly for you to give me $90 at 10 at a time and then not give me the last $10, not put in the last $10 that would give you the return of $200, instead you’d lose $90.  So it makes a lot of sense to finish what you started.

If you think about your life the same way, the projects that you put in, time is money and I’m definitely going to talk about this in another video is how I view that there’s really no difference between time and money that you can swap them interchangeably.  If you think about the world in terms of time being the same as money, it’s really the same exact scenario.  You invest a bunch of time into something and you only really get a payoff from that thing when you complete it.  So it’s really important to figure out how you can complete things that you start.

There’s actually a simple solution for this.  What the solution is is that you stick with it.  I know this is not actually simple.  It’s simple to say, but it’s hard to do but you just have to keep this perspective in mind.  I think the biggest problem for me is I didn’t understand that I was giving someone $90, $10 at a time and not paying the last $10 that would get me back the return.  I was just throwing away my money or actually I was throwing away my time.  Once I started to get that perspective and that perspective came from me actually completing some projects and then getting a big payoff from completing those things.  Once I got that perspective in my head it became a lot easier for me to finish what I started.

The other part of this that I encourage you think about whenever you start any project is, how will this end.  Now, when I do something new I try to think about how it’s likely to end.  I start with the end in mind.  By doing that it helps me to avoid things or avoid starting things that I know I’m not going to finish, that I know are not going to end well and to really have the mindset from the beginning of how is this going to end, where is this going to end.

If you sit down to write a book, a lot of people have started writing their novels and they don’t think a lot about how things are going to end and what that process is going to be.  But if you think it through and you say, “Hey, if I’m going to write a 100,000-word novel I need to write about a 1000 words a day and it’s going to take 100 days.  If I did that 3 days a week this is how long it would day.  You’re more likely to complete it and finish it and get off the payoff, the benefit from finishing your work.

Thanks for checking out this video.  Don’t forget to checkout my website at and let me know if you liked this video if you have any suggestions or comments on how to finish what you’ve started and I’ll talk to you again next week.  Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."