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Intentions don’t count with unfinished tasks

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Are you at great at starting tasks or projects but poor at finishing?

Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of "Boundaries," suggest the problem with many poor finishers is due to the following causes:

» Resistance to structure: difficulty submitting to the discipline of a plan.

» Fear of success: not wanting to cause envy and criticism from others.

» Lack of follow-through: being adverse to the nitty-gritty details of finishing a project.

» Distractibility: inability to focus on a task until it’s done.

» Inability to delay gratification: inability to work through the pain of a project to experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

» Inability to say "no" to other people and pressures, leaving inadequate time to finish any job well.

Cloud and Townsend view those with task completion problems as not having developed their internal "no" to keep them focused on finishing things.

Sometimes we need to say "no" to starting something new if we know we won’t finish.

When I asked a friend whether she had unfinished projects, she replied that she didn’t. She said her late mother left numerous unfinished projects, so she doesn’t allow herself to start something unless she finishes it.

For the rest of us with unfinished tasks or projects, here are some steps to take:

» Start by taking a quick inventory of what’s unfinished, prioritizing those that are still important.

» Pick one to start finishing and break it down into steps.

» Write just the next step (and not the project name) in your schedule. That makes it less daunting and more doable.

» Finish that step and schedule the next steps.

» Say "no" to yourself when tempted to quit prematurely.

In baseball, getting to third base is good, but it doesn’t count as a score. Likewise, it’s not how many things we start that count, but how many we finish.

Finishing tasks and projects brings relief and is time well spent.

Ruth Wong owns Organization Plus. Her column runs the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Contact her by e-mail at


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