Sure, we all have a chunky list of ambitious interests, projects and goals in our head that we want to complete.
But do your intentions for the day actually work out?
Or does the daily minutiae get in the way and keep you from finishing all that you set out to do?
If you’re like most humans, your unfinished projects probably stay exactly where they’re most comfortable – in your head.
Here’s the thing…
Your brain is designed to be an excuse-making machine.
That’s right. You’re designed to reserve your energy for ancient things (as in, from the Stone Ages) like hunting, gathering and steering clear of danger in the wild, which is so out of context in today’s modern world.
Particularly, if you’re reading this article from your electronic device using the internet.
Basically, the way your brain is wired sets you up to procrastinate (even more) on your unfinished projects.
If you’re wondering how to quickly rewire your brain so you can tackle your unfinished projects, I have three hacks for you.
Unfinished Project Hack #1. Tap the Power of the Micro-Step
The first hack for finishing your incomplete projects is to leverage micro-stepping, which is when you break down your project into a bunch of smaller, more manageable chunks.
If you’re familiar with my content, you know I’m an advocate of the powerful formula:
Micro-Steps + Mini-Goals
The reason why I love micro-stepping is it works. It’s a surefire way to make consistent daily progress on your biggest goals, projects and dreams without having to give in to the typical feeling of being overwhelmed.
Which is what stops most of us from moving forward, right?
Analysis paralysis is a real thing.
In fact, known as the paradox of choice, when you have too many options, it causes you more stress.
So, to stop yourself from thinking about all your options instead of pursuing them, whittle your project down into a series of micro-steps, so everything is laid out in plain sight.
To get the most out of the micro-steps + mini-goals formula, you can follow a straightforward 8-step process for creating and achieving your goals in this article about why you need to start micro-stepping today.
For the quick hack route to finishing one of your incomplete projects, simply:
- Break down your unfinished project into several micro-steps. Literally, write down as many little ways that you can think of to finish your project.
- Then, tackle one micro-step at a time, preferably one micro-step per day every single day consistently.
Notice that having a list of micro-steps alone is only half of it.
The trick here is to be consistent in the second step, which is to make it a part of your daily routine to promise yourself you’ll finish one micro-step daily.
To help with that, I bring you the next hack.
Unfinished Project Hack #2. Separate Your Times
The second hack for finishing your incomplete projects is to do what I call “separating your times,” where you give yourself clear designated spaces for your time to think and your time to act.
These are two totally separate activities in your day.
This is where the rewiring of your brain comes in, as in, you need to snap your brain out of auto-pilot.
To give you some context, your brain is on auto-pilot the majority of the day. You make about 35,000 decisions a day, which means most of them are done remotely conscious.
In terms of your brain activity, most of your decisions are being made with the basal ganglia instead of your prefrontal cortex (the conscious decision-making part of your brain), as your natural instinct to not spend your energy on making conscious active decisions.
Again, this is great for fight-or-flight mode to survive in the wild, but not for making progress on your unfinished projects and goals.
In other words, your brain will try to trick you into reserving your energy and procrastinating further, if you let it linger too long without moving and changing your inertia.
So, to stop your procrastinating, designate a time to think about your project and clear time in your day to commit to doing your actual project.
I recommend working into your morning routine, some brainstorming time to think about what meaningful activity you can accomplish that day. Journaling or writing down your micro-steps and goals will solidify your intention even more.
Then, when it comes time to do your project’s micro-step for the day, just act. Move. Interrupt your standard thinking pattern and snap your brain out of auto-pilot by physically moving and taking action.
In a nutshell, when it comes time to do, don’t give yourself time to think about completing your micro-step (you’ve already allowed yourself the time and space to think).
Instead, simply commit to acting and (at the risk of sounding like Nike) just do it — tackle your micro-step for the day.
Otherwise, you’ll put yourself at risk for thinking your way out of it.
On the topic of thinking your way out of action, I’ve got one more hack for you for completing your unfinished projects.
Unfinished Project Hack #3. Embrace Imperfection
The third unfinished project hack is a perspective shift, where you welcome imperfection into your life.
While it’s great to have everything work out the way you want in your head, perfectionism isn’t helpful… to anyone.
In fact, it adds pressure on you to do things a certain way, and if it doesn’t turn out to be that way, then you’ll be severely disappointed, or worse, it prevents you from making any progress.
Put another way, perfectionism can keep you stuck in analysis paralysis and stop you from taking action in completing your project. It can even be a source of excuses for not finishing your projects.
For instance, let’s say decluttering your house is a big project you’ve been procrastinating on.
One perfectionist thought-turned-excuse could look like:
“I can’t declutter my house right now because the city’s on lock-down and I can’t request a pickup time for a donation truck to come by my house.”
Which prevents you from heading into one closet of one room of your house to fill up one box with donated goods.
It’s like the stars have to be aligned before taking the first step, yet there are so many steps you can take in the interim to conquering your project.
The moral is: Let go of perfectionism and you make progress on your project.
For a tangible product example, look to Apple. The $1.3-trillion brand releases imperfect products out into the market all the time and simply iterates improvements and updates after selling them to people.
Just check out all their software updates available for download across their numerous products:
The point is: Your project won’t be perfect, especially to start, so just get it out there and improve (and learn) as you go.
Brain Hack Your Way to Your Best Completed Projects
You don’t have to fall for the too-common brain trap of putting off your unfinished projects and goals. This habit is dangerous and can lead to procrastinating on your most meaningful activities in life.
Which is why I bring you three hacks to try to help you get in the habit of finishing what you start.
- Hack #1 is to leverage micro-stepping, which is breaking down your project into bit-sized action items that you commit to completing every single day consistently until you’ve completed your project.
- Hack #2 is to separate your times, meaning your time to think and your time to act. Incorporate some brainstorming time into your morning routine and then when it comes time to knock out your daily micro-step don’t stop to think about it – just move.
- Hack #3 is to embrace perfectionism. Rather than waiting for everything to be just so, simply start and adjust on the way. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting for the perfect moment forever.
Here’s to making the most of your projects (and retirement life). I’m here for you.