By December 29, 2014

Want to Accomplish Your Goals? Become a Finisher

It was 2:00 AM. I hadn't slept much in the past few days, but I was done.

After months of work, I was finally ready to ship.

I uploaded the final version of PaceMaker to the Android App store and clicked “publish.”

Computer programmer sleeping in the office

I didn't know it at the time, but this day would delineate a new chapter of my life.

After publishing my first Android application, PaceMaker, to the app store, I went from being the kind of software developer who starts projects and never finishes them to the kind of software developer who ALWAYS completes what he begins.

After becoming a finisher, I:

If you want to accomplish your goals, you need to learn to finish what you start

It really is as simple as that.

The number one way that you will accomplish the goals you set for yourself in life is to become the kind of person who always finishes what you start.

This is of course easier said than done–I know it, because I was a big failure at this for a really long time.

For a majority of my life, I was the kind of person who rarely finished what he started, but always started many different things.

Perhaps you are in the same boat? Successful businessman in a finishing line

Don't be shy or embarrassed, you are not alone. Most software developers I know are chronic non-finishers.

Being a non-finisher is a difficult problem to overcome–even as I type this very blog post, my fingers are wanting to give up early. My brain is telling me that I don't have anything good to say and that this isn't “fun.”

But, I know deep down in my heart–regardless of what my fingers feel–that finishing is the only way to success.

I know that getting 50% done is worthless and 90% done is worthless and a big waste of time.

You only get benefits from doing something when you reach 100%.

Getting to 100% is all that matters. Not all the work you put into it leading up to that point. Not your initial enthusiasm. Not even the time you spent. As soon as you spend it that time is gone.

The only way any of those things have any chance of showing a return on your investment is by reaching 100%–taking the big rubber stamp that says “done” on it and stamping it right across your work in dark red ink.

The first step to changing your mindset into a finisher's mindset is understanding this. Not just understanding it, but truly believing it–there is a difference.

If you want to be a finisher, you need to take a serious look back at your life and look at all the projects you started but never finished. Think about what the outcomes of all those projects would have been if you had actually finished them.

How much further would you be in accomplishing your goals in life if you simply completed everything you started?

Yes, I know there is a whole bevy of excuses as to why you didn't finish this project or that one–I've got plenty myself–but, the truth is none of those excuses really matter. You either finished or you didn't.

Becoming a finisher: start with the end in mind

So, you want to become a finisher?

Good, but you might be wondering how.

Well, I can't teach you grit, but I can give you some advice on how to become the kind of person who almost always finishes what he or she starts.

Retro typewriter text the end

Think about the end before you begin

It starts with beginning with the end in mind. 

Whenever I am about to start on some kind of project or I have some kind of idea for something I would like to do, I always try to first envision how this new thing will end.

Yes, it's great that I have an idea for this new project that will finally make me rich and solve all of the world's problems, but am I likely to follow through on it?

How long will this project take to complete?

Am I willing to sacrifice hours out of my day, each and every day, to work on it?

Do I expect to work on this thing for a few weeks, until I get bored, and then move onto something else?

You need to ask yourself all of these questions–and more. Try to realistically think about how the project will end.

Can you even see a successful completion to it?

If you are honest with yourself, this will kill most projects from the start. Most of the dreams we have are just that–dreams. We don't actually have any real intention of seeing them through. We don't honestly think that we'll complete more than half of the projects we start.

So, why do we start them in the first place?

Because we didn't take the time to think about how they will realistically end.

So, take the time before you start on a project to think carefully about how it will end. If you can't see it ending with a successful completion, don't even start it to begin with.

Some of the most successful people I know are successful simply because they are very good about picking what to work on. Sometimes it's not what you do that counts, but what you don't do.

Imagine if you could take back all the wasted hours in your life and devote those hours to focus only on projects that you would see through to completion.

  • You would have written that book.
  • You would have designed and built that application you've been wanting to build.
  • You would have learned that programming language.
  • You would have become a dictator of your own island nation.

(Ok, well maybe not the last one, but I think you get my point.)

Don't let passion or enthusiasm guide your course

Yes, passion and enthusiasm are usually what get us to start a project.

We start things because we are excited about them.

I thought it would be awesome to write a book–that is until I was about 5 chapters in and realized how much work it was.

Passion is fickle, you need commitment to succeed

Passion is fickle, you need commitment to succeed

I was thrilled to create my own mobile application or record my first Pluralsight course–again, until I realized how difficult and time consuming both of those projects would be.

But, guess what?

Despite feeling like banging my head into the wall over and over again, I completed my book, I created 55 Pluralsight courses and I built several mobile applications.

I may have started the projects because I was passionate about them, but I finished them because I was committed.

That is the key: commitment.

When was the last time you actually really committed to something substantial?

I'm not talking about committing to show up at a restaurant at a certain time to meet a friend for dinner or committing to mow the lawn or take out the trash.

I'm talking about committing to something big. Something that you couldn't necessarily control the outcome of, but you could control the effort you put into it.

Here is a good test to see if you really committed to something…

Did you set a deadline?

If you left yourself an open-ended ticket, you probably didn't really commit. Real commitments usually have real deadlines.

And guess what? I made the deadlines myself.

Once I set the deadlines, I told everyone else about them, but I knew that if I was going to really commit to a project, I had to give it a real deadline, otherwise I was just playing pretend. I spent enough of my life playing pretend, as I am sure you have as well.

Let's stop playing pretend and start getting things done.

Let's not be afraid to set deadlines for ourselves and to stick to them, rain, shine, sleet or hail. If the US postal system can do it, surely we can.

And it's not good enough just to have a deadline. You have to really believe it is a dead line.

What I mean is that you really have to convince yourself that life or death hangs in the balance.

And to some degree it does.

You may think I am exaggerating, but I assure you, I'm not.

If you can't meet your own deadlines, If you can't commit to projects you start, you will waste your life.

You'll waste it chasing dreams instead of making your dreams reality.

Sure, you may not physically die, but you'll feel dead inside.

So, respect your deadlines. Respect your commitments.

They will save your life.

Plan ahead and schedule your time

You can select your project wisely and be committed to it and still fail to accomplish it if you don't actually set aside time to work on it.

I know how it is–believe me–life gets in your way.

You get home from work and you just want to relax. You are too tired to work on “the project,” but you'll have some time tomorrow.

But, tomorrow the car breaks down, you have to take it into the mechanic.

Every day will give you a new excuse to not make progress on your goals, if you let it.

So, don't let it.

Instead, plan ahead.

Click here to see how I plan my week

Click here to see how I plan my week

Every day know when you are going to work on your project and for how long.

If you don't think you have enough time, read this.

Remember this rule: any time that is unaccounted for is automatically lost.

You have to actually plan out the time and days you are going to work on your projects if you want to get them done.

I couldn't consistently get to the gym and workout until I started planning the time for it ahead of time. I couldn't possibly have written a 500+ page book in 3 months time if I hadn't planned out what chapters I was going to write and when.

If you think you can accomplish your goals without setting aside time for them, you are living in a fantasy world.

In the real world, things happens when time is made for them. It's not like we are kids any more telling our parents how we are bored. I don't recall any days in the last 15 or so years where I felt like I had extra time to spare and nothing to do with it.

One last tip, try to schedule your time for working on a side project in the first couple of hours of the morning.

Wake up a little earlier and use that time to “pay yourself first.” If you make sure you spend the first few hours of your day working on your project, you'll always have time for it.

(If you want to check out a good book which will help you with finishing, try: Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time)

You can be a finisher

Ultimately it comes down to this: You have to decide that you are tired of having a closet full of half-completed projects.

You have to decide that finishing is important to you and that despite how you feel, despite how bleak the outcome may seem to be, once you start something you will finish it–barring some extreme circumstance.

It's not an easy journey, but once you decide to embark upon it, you'll start to see rewards you never imagined possible.

My life completely changed once I became a finisher–your's will too.

Need a little help and encouragement along the way?

There is not shame in it–we all do.

Just sign up for my weekly emails and join the Simple Programmer community. You'll get an email from me every week with some kind of inspirational message or practical advice you can use to become a better software developer by way of becoming a better person.

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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."