A question to help with finishing what you’ve started

Do you love the thrill of starting something new? But what’s it like for you a week or month later? Over time the enthusiasm can wear off, our motivation starts to wane, and we find ourselves staring at a looming deadline or commitment that seems insurmountable. We reach the tough, messy middle. Then, as one of my lovely readers has commented, “It’s the Finishing that can get lost.

There are many things we can do to help us cross the finish line. Here is one question that can help us, whether we’re at the start or towards the end of a project, to get us back on track to finishing.

Inner Creative Blog - A question to help with finishing what you've started
It’s quite simple. Maybe a tad obvious.

What’s your ‘why’?

Why do you want to write that book? Paint every day? Why do you want to go to the gym? Why did you sign up to help with the school fair? 

Why did that idea, that sounded so brilliant when you first thought it, feel so exciting?

Was it because you are passionate about a story that needs to be told? You love the quiet mind space you get when you’re totally focused and engaged? You want to get healthy and not feel so lethargic? You get a buzz from being a part of something bigger?

It doesn’t matter how big or small your ‘why’ is. Whether it’s altruistic or totally self-serving.

What matters is that your ‘why’ for that project matters to you.

Sometimes we commit to doing something because that’s what we’ve always done, or more likely, because that’s what others do and hence something we expect that we should also be doing.

Really understanding the ‘why’ of a project helps us see where it aligns to our bigger ‘why’ and values.

Quote “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche featured in Inner Creative blog - A question to help with finishing what you've started

Understanding your project’s or commitment’s ‘why’ is useful in a few ways:

  • Knowing why you want to work on a project, can act as a motivator or a touchstone to remind you of the importance of what you’re doing and to keep going even if it’s tough right now. 

Charles Duhigg kept his ‘why’ top of mind when he was working on “Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productivity in Life and Business” by writing why it was important to get a task done on the top of each of his manuscripts. Similarly, you could write the ‘why’ on top of work reports, your project notebook, or even next to each task on your ‘to do’ list. You could write your ‘why’ on a sticky note that you attach onto your computer, a label on your gym bag, or paint it onto a rock that sits on your desk. Put your ‘why’ anywhere that will remind you of what working on your project means to you.

  • If we ask ‘Why?’ at the start of a project, we may never even commit to starting something in the first place.

    We then have more room on our plate to finish things that are more meaningful. For instance, when you’re asked to collaborate on a project see how it aligns with your work or business goals. On the surface it may fit within your job description or field of expertise, but by saying yes it may take you away from focusing on your current book project or product launch.

  • If you can’t work out why you’re doing a project or the ‘why’ doesn’t align with what you want, then modify what you’re doing, or let it go.

For instance, you may spend a lot of time on Twitter wanting to build a strong connection with your audience. But on closer inspection, your target market prefers to use another social media platform. Stop using Twitter and move your business posting efforts to where your real audience is (if you still love tweeting, then keep it just for personal use 🙂 ).

Sometimes we need to do a task or project that we’re not exactly thrilled about (we may have already said ‘yes’ and can’t back out, or it’s a job requirement).  Find something about this unpleasant task that resonates with your personal ‘why’ or connect it to a bigger more meaningful goal. For example, we may not want to spend time on book-keeping, but it makes tax time easier and helps us see cost saving opportunities that mean we can invest in learning a new skill.

Sticking with a project to finish it can be tough. But if we remember to ask the question ‘Why?’ and connect it to something bigger than the task facing us that day, we’re more likely stay motivated and see it out to the end.

If you want help sticking to a project that you’ve been procrastinating on, then sign up to the Inner Creative mailing list to join the upcoming free Procrastination Buster Challenge. You’ll receive a free workbook to help pick the right project, plus 15 daily inspirational emails to keep you accountable and motivated until you reach your goal. Join us! It’ll be fun. Imagine that sense of relief and satisfaction once you cross the finish line and get your project done!

 

Increase your productivity with this surprising method – Forgiveness

Previously, I’ve talked about the power of starting again, no matter where you are in the timeline of your project or goal. It’s a very simple idea. Show up and start by taking the first step whatever that may be.

 

That’s all very well when you’re feeling enthusiastic and pumped. But what about if you’re feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed or procrastinating big time? You might intellectually know that you need to start doing something, but you really don’t feel like it.

Inner Creative Blog Increase your productivity with this surprising method

I get what this feels like. I’m an enthusiastic starter. But sometimes mid-way through or towards the end of a project it can get tough.
Sometimes I can get ahead of myself and begin to freak out about what I need to do after this stage or project is finished, start questioning what I’m making, or wondering if I’m on the right track. And it doesn’t reflect how much you love what you do overall or how important the project is for you.

 

Projects can also get hard because:
  • it’s been a long haul and you’ve spent a lot of time on it,
  • the end point still feels so far away,
  • you’ve used up a lot of your physical or emotional energy,
  • you’re not in tip top shape, or
  • the planets have not aligned/you woke up grumpy/you’re having a bad day/whatever :-).
It doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason, you don’t feel like working on your project but you really need to get on with it.

So what can you do? 

Two things-
  1. Get calm

    This may mean:

    – taking a few deep breaths,

    – going for a walk,

    – doing a body scan,

    – getting quiet to notice what sounds you can hear around you, or

    – doing a re-alignment exercise, like reminding yourself of your ‘why’ or tapping into your intuition (that’s when I use my Get Unstuck worksheet).

    You don’t need to get all zen ‘Buddha on a mountaintop’. Just give yourself an inch of head space.

  2. Do the ‘F’ word – that’s forgiveness.

    You may wonder what forgiveness has to do with productivity or working on your project. Plenty.

    When we’re feeling overwhelmed or procrastinating in any way, we can get critical and start attacking ourselves. 

Does this happen to you?

We’re not feeling great or are stressed out about the project. So we procrastinate and waste time. Then we feel bad for not working on our project, which puts another layer of stress or ill feeling on top of our project and how we feel about ourselves. This then makes us feel even worse and means we’re more likely to delay working on the project even further. And the cycle goes on and on.

 

It doesn’t need to be about a particular project either. Recently, a friend shared a story about her good friend who wanted to move forward in her life, but kept getting dragged back by her regrets. She couldn’t, and wouldn’t let herself, start again.

 

The only way to break this cycle is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness quote Desmond Tutu featured in Inner Creative blog -Increase your productivity with this surprising method - Forgiveness
We may have regrets. We may have some ‘shoulda’s’ (‘I should have done this’) or ‘if only’s’ (‘If only I’d done that instead’) whirling around in our heads. But we are where we are. We can’t take back the time. We only have today and this moment. The main thing is to get moving again and clear whatever it is that’s blocking us from getting started.

 

So when you’re feeling overwhelmed or having a bout of procrastination, take a moment to forgive yourself.

You can write it down, or just say it to yourself (aloud or silently in your head). If you want to, you can also make a confession of sorts first. (What do you feel bad about? What have or haven’t you been doing?)

 

You can be explicit or as general as you like in your forgiveness – “I forgive myself for procrastinating”, “I forgive myself for wasting time yesterday watching TV”, “I forgive myself for beating myself up over this project”, “I forgive myself for calling myself a failure”. You get the idea.

 

I like to use the Hoʻoponopono (pronounced ho-o-pono-pono) prayer or mantra as explained by Joe Vitale and Ihaleakala Hew Len in their book Zero Limits. It’s based on a Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. It involves taking responsibility for our actions and what is appearing in our life. Healing is found through repeating the mantra
“I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.” 
A lot 🙂

 

For self-forgiveness, the idea is that we say this to ourselves. I find that repeating this mantra helps to calm me down at the same time.

 

Inner Creative Higher Heart Mandala Detail from 2018 Mandala Inspiration Calendar
As an aside, I repeated the Hoʻoponopono mantra as I drew the Higher Heart mandala for the new 2018 Mandala Inspiration calendar (a detail is pictured here). Head over to the shop for more information. 

 

 

Once you feel calm and at peace, let go of the past and any regret, and move forward.

 

And most importantly, start back on your project. Make sure you do something.

 

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How many times can you start over?

Inner Creative blog How many times can you start over?
Sometimes starting can be easy.

 

I love starting out on a new project. It can be exiting and fun. In fact, so fun, that it’s easy to get caught up in doing all the dreaming, planning and researching that the ‘doing’ part falls to the wayside until another new idea catches our attention. Shiny New Object Syndrome, anyone? 🙂 But as I’ve recently discovered, it’s the willingness to start again that is so important when the going gets tough.

 

Over the last few months, I’ve bunkered down to focus on creating and trialling a 12 week planner (that helps you set a focused goal, as well as step you through your ‘to do’ list to make it happen) and more recently, getting my 2018 Mandala Inspiration calendar to the printers. You might have seen some of my early work in my Mandala Inspiration series or some behind-the-scenes over on my Facebook or Instagram accounts more recently.

 

Inner Creative Mandala Inspiration 2018 Chakra Calendar featured in blog How many times can you start over?

 

Drawing my mandala images over this last month was particularly tough. There were times when I could sit down and easily get into the flow. But there were many other times when I was feeling under the weather, not inspired, or had the “who do you think you are?” thought patterns racing through my head. And past performance had no bearing on the next mandala I went to work on. Each mandala was based on a chakra or energy point in the body. They had their own colours, vibe and story. So it didn’t matter if the previous day I’d had a brilliant session or finished a mandala I was proud of. The next day I needed to draw something new. On those difficult days, I just did my best to show up at my table with my pencils and paper, and be prepared to start again. And if I mucked up or the mandala wasn’t looking like I wanted it to, then I’d show up the next day and start again.

 

Yesterday the final calendar design went to the printers. I am so proud of how it turned out (you can have a sneak peak of the back page here).
Inner Creative Mandala Inspiration 2018 Calendar back cover
And looking back I still don’t know how I got through it all. What got me through was my persistence and willingness to keep starting; to show up at the table and draw; to allow my [intuition/inner creativity/muse/spirit/Divine inspiration/whatever you want to call it] take over and let the mandala reveal itself as I kept drawing.

 

Now that I’ve finished one chapter, I am ready to start the next.

So now I’m encountering the other type of starting – the hard one.

The one where you can see the mountain (that big goal, dream, project, ’to do’ list or even physical pile of stuff) sitting before you. It’s huge and overwhelming. You don’t know where to start.

 

This week the kids headed back to school, leaving me to get reacquainted with my ‘to do’ list. It’s a bit crazy. All the things I’ve put off during the school holidays are now back on my plate. Plus I’m really determined to help you (and many others like you) achieve your dreams and goals by offering a suite of planning projects and tools over the next few months. So to say I was overwhelmed was an understatement :-).

 

Inner Creative Get Unstuck Worksheet detail featured in blog How many times can you start over?You can see a visual representation of this feeling in the top circle of my ‘Get Unstuck’ Worksheet. Using this worksheet, helped me get passed my head, tap into my heart and intuition, and work out the next step to take. I also felt heaps better.
I then stumbled across this Martin Luther King quote: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

 

"Take the first step in faith.You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step" quote by Martin Luther King featured in Inner Creative blog How many times can you start over?
It’s such a nice reminder – if your big goal, project or ‘to do’ list is looming a bit large, then remember that you don’t need to figure it all out now. All you need to do is take the first step and then the next one will reveal itself. Sometimes it’s not worth working out every single detail ahead of time, because you may discover a better approach along the way.

 

I’m trying to apply this advice to my own massive list of projects. I’m starting by stepping small and focusing on doing just one thing at a time. Each time I cross something off my list, I just start again by asking, ‘What is the next step I need to take now?

 

We often see the opportunity to start again and wipe the slate clean at the start of the year, the month, the week, and the day. But I believe we have the opportunity to start again in this moment, right now. We always have the choice to do or think something different and start again.

 

And even though we may be starting again and feel like we’re at ground zero, we’re never in the same place that we were before. (It’s a bit like travelling along a spiral than a 2D circle.)  We always have experience and knowledge to draw on (even if it’s not from the exact situation).

 

So getting back to my original question – how many times can you start over? I say, as many times as you like for as long as it takes :-).

 

Do you have a big goal or project on the horizon? What’s the next small step you need to take to get started? I’d love to hear what it is so I can cheer you on (comment below or tag me on Facebook or Instagram). And most importantly, once you figure out what you need to do to get started: go ahead and do it. Good luck!