Top ways to use the art of non-finishing

We all have projects. Whether at work or in our personal lives, we all have things that for one reason or another we have started but not yet finished. Sometimes because they require too much work. Other times because we just can’t be bothered.

Maybe you started something and found that a needed piece was missing, maybe something more shiny came along. For me, one of the main offenders are things that I started but just ran out of time.

Things that you have started but not finished can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Often partly-completed things are worse than un-started ones because of your previous investment.

You remain bound to your obligation to finish. Committed to it through the time or other resources already spent.

You don’t need to finish something just because you started it

The only reason that you should feel obliged to do anything is because it needs to be done. The size of your future investment in something should be measured by the amount remaining. The previous resources (time, money etc.) shouldn’t be a factor.

If you have decided that you don’t like or want something, it is not productive (and sometimes pointless) to finish something just because of the effort already invested.

In business circles this is referred to as ‘throwing good money after bad’. This also extends out to your time. Probably even more so!
Time is the most valuable resource that we have and it makes little sense to use more of it on something just because of the time already spent.

What is your ‘Return on Investment’?

Another common finance term that we can learn from is called ‘return on investment’. This is simply a way of looking at what we will get back, based on what we put in.
In the corporate world this is commonly used to see if a project will be given the resources to start. This is worked out by reviewing the expected ‘return’ from the resources spent. This normally means looking at whether something will bring in more money than it costs.

We all regularly do something similar in day to day life. We think “Is it worth it?” – Is it worth the money? Is it worth the effort?

What we also need to think is “Is it still worth it?”

Take control of your own life

Part of being a confident and productive human is knowing when to change direction on something. Taking responsibility for where your own life is heading. Changing direction if it is no longer in line with your goals or values.
When reviewing options and next steps, completely abandoning something is a perfectly suitable approach.

The amount of time that you have already spent on something shouldn’t dictate whether more is. This is not logical but is still a trap that many intelligent people fall into. They feel that because they have started something they need to finish it.

I know many people that are unable to stop watching a movie after watching the first half hour. The film could be terrible but because they have seen the start, they need to know how it ends. The response “it isn’t very good but I am more than half way through” seems a satisfactory answer.

While you are spending time on completing something that you don’t want or need to, you are not spending that time on something else.

If you are not going to actually finish something, it is often better to acknowledge that and move on. On to something that is more enjoyable or more important to you.
You might find that this conflicts with the expectation that others have of you.

That is when you know that you are taking real responsibility for your own life.

Photo by olgaberrios

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