Getting started … then finishing

If there are two things that cause us the most trouble and inner anguish in our daily lives, its either getting started or finishing something.  We may be someone who has trouble starting, finishing, or both. My father notoriously didn’t finish things – we lived in a house with a half-finished basement, with a back yard that was almost finished. Sometimes, he would actually finish what he started, but only after years of delay, distractions, and becoming blind to it’s presence, and finally getting a real, serious, threatening ultimatum. And part of the reason he never finished anything was because he’d wait till the last minute to begin, work like a demon last minute, wear himself out, finally make some mistake, then stop, get discouraged, and leave it for a very long time, if not forever. I found it endlessly aggravating, so – naturally – that was one thing I vowed I’d never do.

Procrastinators, according to Tim Urban (see the Ted Talk below), have a really hard time doing anything that has long-term benefits if it doesn’t also have the short-term benefit of instant gratification. When faced with work that looks scary and labor-intensive, the procrastinator will almost always go for relief into something that gives them a momentary pleasure.

He calls the place procrastinators go The Dark Playground. The only way procrastinators seem to be able to get going, get started, and then finish, is if a deadline is looming and panic sets in. This is a problem, and shortens lives eventually.  But what’s even worse is when there is no deadline, because then even if things get started, they rarely get finished. Unfinished and unstarted things begin to pile up, resulting for the procrastinator in frustration, depression, and feeling like they are merely spectators in their own lives.

Marie Forleo  discusses this problem for those of us who are self-starters in our own businesses.  As self-starters, procrastination will kill whatever it is we are striving for faster than pretty much anything else.  Deadlines don’t work because there’s too much riding on them – if anything is delayed or ignored, it’s likely going to stop everything, leading to missed obligations, broken promises and lost opportunities.

Her answer? Start before you’re ready.

If you’re a procrastinator, you might delay starting because you don’t feel you’re ready, or that you need to get it right. This need isn’t actually real, because in truth, we are never really ready to start something and be sure we won’t miss something or make it perfect the first time.  We all learn by trial and error, and that means the first time we do something is really necessary and unavoidable practice for the next time we do it again. If you never get started on the fist iteration, you’ll never get to perfection.

So the next time you’re faced with something that feels daunting, and begin to feel the tug of instant gratification, make a deal with that part of you who would rather play – satisfy him or her in some way – then get to it.  Start before you’re ready!

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator


Quote of the Week

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
Pablo Picasso
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at




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