On Finishing

I took on a sprawling and overgrown rose bush on Saturday. Pruned it way back and began to wrassle it onto a new trellis. I have the scratches to prove it. I look like one of those people who roughhouse with their cats a lot.

It will create a lovely archway of red (maybe not this year, but next for sure).  That is, if I ever finish the project.

I don’t consider myself a “finisher.” All too often it seems I move on to the next thing before completing what I’ve already started.

But the crazy thing is, I love finishing. I love finishing so much that if I can’t complete something at one go, I don’t really want to start it at all.

Which is kind of problematic. I mean…

  • What if I don’t have sufficient interest available to finish at one go?
  • What if I don’t have sufficient time available to finish at one go?
  • What if I don’t have sufficient energy available to finish at one go?

These things are common everyday problems. How often do we actually have sufficient time, energy and interest to finish something from beginning to end? Not often. Even if we are very clever and insightful in our choices.

So I’ve been practicing finishing. Because I don’t really care for all those unfinished projects and tasks.


Some things are just not so exciting. Like, say, laundry. So for starters, I don’t let it pile up until there’s nothing left to wear.

Since my attention span for it is limited, I match the amount of work I give myself  to my willingness to do it.

And then I practice finishing it. All the way. Wash. Dry. Fold. Put away. (vs. Wash. Dry. Dress from baskets of rumpled laundry all week.)

I’m finding practicing with the small, less consequential stuff makes it easier to finish the things that really matter.


Some things are pretty big. Even if I give myself long uninterrupted stretches of time to work, those kinds of projects just can’t be finished in a day.

Since my time is limited, I match the amount of work I give myself to my availability for it.

Which means giving those larger projects and tasks more realistic time frames and chunking them down into smaller parts that I can finish in one go and feel satisfied with accomplishing.  It’s all about properly pacing myself.


Some projects are exhausting. Physically. Mentally. Creatively. Emotionally.

Since my energy is limited, I match the amount of work I give myself to my capacity for it.

Which means not pushing so hard, not dipping too deeply into my reserves, just for the sake of finishing.

But it also means somehow preserving that initial enthusiasm and energy that I so often have at the outset of a project.  Because once I get into it, I end up seeing all the little things I need to do for it to turn out the way I intend. And that’s both compelling and draining.

I need to rest. In fact, rest would help me see fresh solutions. But I don’t want to lose my groove, you know? And I really want to finish. But time and energy are up for today. So what to do?

Now that I can pretty much consistently put my laundry away (literally and metaphorically), I’m practicing ways to cultivate a willingness and ease to reentering a project – to make things easier to restart, to get back into that groove.

In the case of the rose bush, doing that is pretty straightforward. Since we are enjoying very pleasant weather this week, I left everything out – all the tools and whatnot, so I could just pick up where I left off. The whatnot is also kind of annoyingly in the way, so chances are I won’t be tempted to start something else until I finish the project.

It doesn’t seem so easy with a big work-related project, but I suspect it is. Leave the tools out. Make some notes about what you were doing when you stopped. Make it easy to restart the thing and make it hard to begin something else. Give the energy a channel, create a path of least resistance.

Yes. I feel like I’m making a smidge of progress. I’ve got a glimmer of insight into how I can reconcile wanting to finish with learning ways of actually doing it.

• • • • •

June 1 – Follow-up: It’s done. Just sayin’.



10 Responses to “On Finishing”

  1. 1 Stacie Somers May 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Oh MAN, did this speak to me. Mostly I just feel so much better knowing that I’m not the only person in the world who seems to start lots of things… but has much difficulty finishing them. !

    I’m totally a clean laundry sitting wrinkled in the basket kind of girl. I’ve been practicing these days, too, though. In fact, I finally just finished off a scarf that had been sitting in my knitting bag (which itself had been hidden away in a closet somewhere) for over 2 years! It sure did feel good.

    The one thing that never seems to be finished, though? Organizing/cleaning my bedroom. Ugh. Talk about lack of interest, time, and energy for a task!

    • 2 Cairene May 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

      [waving hello!] Yay for the the finished scarf! I hope you are wearing it with pleasure and pride.

      As for your bedroom… Have you ever participated in one of Jen Hoffman’s Office Spa Days? (http://www.inspiredhomeoffice.com/products/officespaday/) It doesn’t necessary have to be about your work space – and she does an amazing job of helping you transform the “ugh” part. Might be a great way to regain some interest, energy and time for the task. :)

  2. 3 Liz May 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Do you live in my closet spying on me?!? My husband has finally realized that if he doesn’t fold the laundry, it will stay in the basket until… well until he dumps it onto the bed where it might get folded and put away- unless I move the whole pile onto the floor in front of my dresser….
    I have to say- for me leaving the project/tools out can be a tricky thing. Sometimes it leads me back to finish- sometimes it just makes for more clutter… guess that’s my learning edge!

    • 4 Cairene May 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

      @Liz – Good point. So I will add the clarification that leaving the project/tools out only works if you aren’t doing it all over the place. I figure maybe you can have one or two of those sorts of things going on at one time … after that, you’re right, it’s just clutter – and adds to the overwhelm. Still have to practice the finishing…

  3. 5 Lynne May 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    The not finishing thing is absolutely one of the characteristics I want most to change about myself. I am all gung ho during the planning and initial implementation phases of anything — and then BAM! It’s like somebody flicks a switch and I completely lose interest.

    I love the idea of practicing completing things. That’s such a non-judgemental way of thinking about it (as opposed to the way I typically berate myself for being such a loser because I have so many unfinished projects!). Thanks so much for this… I will try the concept of practice makes perfect (or practice makes finished!).

    • 6 Cairene May 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm

      @Lynne –
      Ah! There is the freshness of something new that is so inspiring. While it’s an idea, it’s still perfect. But once begun, then there is working through all the little ways vision and reality don’t quite match up – and being okay, even inspired by that. Tricky, I know. I’m glad this helped a little. Best to you in in building your finishing muscles!

  1. 1 It’s not all or nothing. « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 19, 2009 at 9:03 am
  2. 2 One way to build your choosing muscles. « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 20, 2009 at 9:28 am
  3. 3 Twitted by jpwarren Trackback on May 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm
  4. 4 Order from Influence « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 28, 2009 at 7:15 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Third Hand Works

from overwhelmed to ready for anything | organization and time management for people in their "right" minds | administrative guidance for independent creative professionals [more info]



© 2008 Cairene MacDonald, Third Hand Works. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: