Jon Acuff has published some very interesting books: Do Over, Start, Quitting and now I had the pleasure of learning form his experiences around the concept of finishing.

Some people never have any problems starting things but what they do have is a problem with finishing things. I’ve been there – I have a number of ideas that I have started but doing the hard work to finish them has certainly been a challenge for me. Jon shares a number of interesting strategies for helping people finish their work:

Most people want things to be perfect

It can sometimes be a reason why rather than starting something and leaving it at 50% complete, they would rather not do anything and be 0% complete. How do you get out of this mindset? Do what James Altucher does – come up with 10 ideas every single day to build that idea muscle of yours but also to get you out of thinking that you need perfect ideas to write it down. When you start writing down ideas and trying to reach 10, 20 or even 50 ideas to stretch your brain, you need a lot of bad ideas.

Cut your goal in half

Do you want to lose 10 pounds? Cut it in half. Why? Imagine that you lost 8 pounds in 2 months. You did not reach your 10 pound goal and you would feel like you failed. Cutting your goal in half is another way of really saying that you should create the smallest goals for yourself in order to accomplish them easily and then use that momentum and motivation from reaching your first few set of goals to create more ambitious goals. What is a great way to practice this? Take B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits course – it’s free and it teaches you this exact idea – set a super tiny goal, reward yourself and then use that as a starting point to build bigger habits. For example, if you want to get into the habit of flossing your teeth, go and floss one tooth. Even if you do not floss any more teeth aside from that one tooth, you have accomplished your goal and you should celebrate (though chances are, you will feel like flossing more teeth).

Choosing to fail at certain things

We all know that we cannot multi task and we also know that if we divide our focus on too many things, we are just not going to have enough time, energy or focus to achieve everything. What does this mean? It means that we can and should choose to ‘fail’ at specific things that we work on. Maybe you feel that you cannot be a husband, a father and an entrepreneur all at once. This does not necessarily mean that you choose to be a bad father but maybe at times, in order to run your business, you will have to drop your kids off with your parents or a day care so that you have the time to work on your business. If you haven’t already, it may also mean that you spend less time watching television or participating in social media so that you have the time to do other things.

Make it fun

I like this concept a lot and I think Gretchen Rubin describes a similar concept, though not quite in Jon’s words that summarizes this quite nicely. It’s the concept of pairing fun things with not so fun things in order to motivate yourself to get things done. When you don’t really want to exercise in the morning but know that that is the only time you can watch Game of Thrones is when you are on the treadmill, you are going to complete the run in the morning. When you do not really want to do the dishes or the laundry, but have an exciting podcast to listen to while doing so, you’re going to have clean dishes and fresh smelling clothing. Pair up the fun things with your not so fun things and watch yourself get more things done.

Secret rules to accomplish more things

Jon shares a fantastic story about when Will Smith first moved to LA to break into the movie industry. His manager asked him what goal he wanted to set for himself and Will replied “I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.” Remember, this was before Will became a huge mainstream rapper and even further before he became a blockbuster actor. His manager did some research and looked at the ten top grossing movies of all time to understand if there are patterns. They both realized that 10 / 10 of the movies had special effects. 9 / 10 had special effects with creatures. 8 / 10 had special effects with creatures and a love story.

Now let’s take a look at Will’s six most successful movies:

  • Independence Day – special effects, creatures, love story
  • Suicide Squad – special effects, creatures, love story
  • Hancock – special effects
  • Men in Black 3 – special effects, creatures, love story
  • Men in Black – special effects, creatures, love story
  • I am Legend – special effects, creatures

Find someone with an amazing diploma and then borrow it for yourself.

Use data to help motivate you

If you were trying to improve your running, if you went from running 3 miles / hour to 4 miles / hour, you improve your 20 minute mile to a 15 minute mile. That’s quite significant. However, if you ran 8 miles / hour and increased it to 9 miles / hour, you improve your mile time by 40 seconds. I know right? It’s not a lot and it seems insignificant (and it also amazes me when people tell me how quickly they run marathons or half marathons because even a small amount of time shaved off can be significant knowing that fact). All this is to say that you can use data to motivate you and show the progress that you are making because when you do not have the data, progress may not be visible to you. I’d also point out, as Scott Adams did in his book “How to fail at everything and still win big” that systems are superior to goals – rather than trying to lose 10 pounds, my system is to eat healthy (say at least 3 servings of vegetables every meal) and be active (exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes or less). The way you set your goals can help you achieve them as you can see.

Give yourself the gift of done! Finish those ambitious goals that you set!