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How to Start Something Awesome and Finish It

One of the hardest things to do when you start something awesome is finish it.So many things can go wrong along the path to creating something awesome and doing great things. One of the biggest obstacles that can get in your way is yourself. You can make up million of excuses and sabotage your own projects like no other. Make sure that doesn’t happen by practicing these habits with every project.Line up Values and PrioritiesIs it in line with your values and priorities? Why are you doing it?The first thing you have to look at when something new comes up is why you are doing it. There is so much going on these days and so many new things coming in through every input channel imaginable that it’s hard not to latch on to every new thing that comes by. Twitter, gotta get on that. Facebook, have to have one. Google Plus, must update status. People are doing everything these days just to get attention. That doesn’t mean you have to as well. Don’t keep up with the Jones. Do what you need to do.Start with your major goals and priorities. Is your focus writing? Then why are you dabbling in video? Do you want to help people in a specific area? Then why are you tweet and facebooking about things other than that. Give me a really good reason why this new project lines up with the core of your values and priorities right now and then you can go ahead.Estimate then ScheduleI’m usually terrible with this one but I’m getting better and it’s helping a lot. You have 168 hours every week. In that time you have to eat, sleep, relax, travel, hang out and deal with emergencies. All those things take up a lot of time. Are they in your calendar? No? That might be why you’re trying to schedule 20 hours of work for yourself every day. This may work for a day or 2 but you’ll kill yourself scheduling that much work. You want to have a good life right?Your calendar is your god with this. When you are looking at starting a new project first look at how much time you have. Up to your eyeballs in work for the next 3 weeks? Not a good time to start something new. Your calendar should tell you this. If it doesn’t then you’re not using it enough. For every task you work on, estimate how long it’s going to take and then put it in your calendar. In your head you think you can do 30 hours of work each day no problem. Your calendar, and real life, will tell you differently. If it doesn’t fit in your calendar, you’re not doing it.Don’t worry about estimating time. It’s really hard. The last thing you know about some things is exactly how long it’s going to take. Often it’s after it’s done that you know how long it’s going to take. Make a guess, schedule it and get moving.Set SMART GoalsWe’ve all heard the SMART goals thing before. I heard it first in high school and totally disregarded it as some fluffy thing a teacher said that I’d never use in my life. Apparently I was wrong. If I took anything out of school this was probably one of the golden nuggets I should have remembered.SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I’ll do a quick run through if you were like me and weren’t listening for that class in high school.Specific refers to how detailed your goal is. It needs to be specific, very specific. If anything, err on the side of more specific than less. Vague goals are junk. Your brain has no idea what you’re talking about when you tell it you want to get fit, build an amazing business, or live an exciting life. Your subconscious looks at that and goes, “What do you mean?”, and throws it out. Think about explaining your goal to a 5 year old. If they don’t get it, it’s not specific enough.Measurable basically means you know when you are done. How do you finish something if you don’t know where your finish line is? Think of yourself as an employee asking “when do I know when I’m done?” Answer that for yourself and you’ll be well on your way to making a measurable goal.Attainable can be a confusing one. It means you have to set a goal that’s attainable by you, that you are able to achieve what you set out to do. How high do you set it? It mainly depends on time. You can achieve anything you want in your life but how much time are you willing to devote to it. If you want to climb Everest do you plan do it in 6 months or 10 years? I’d say nearly anybody could do it in 10 years with focus and determination for those entire 10 years. 6 months? You’d better be ridiculously strong and fit and have a ton of money. Big huge goals have an abysmal rate of success. Pick a smaller mountain and knock that off and then maybe look at the Everest goal again.Realistic is requirement that’s similar to attainable. It’s up to you to decide whether something is realistic for your. It comes down to your situation again. You may have some huge goal you want to tackle but with all the sports your doing, family commitments and little side projects you have on the go, you don’t have time for that huge goal. It’s not realistic. Clear off some of the other stuff and you might find that big goal becomes more realistic.Timely means deadlines. Yes, I hate deadlines too. Just the thought of them makes me think of writing papers at 4 in the morning the night before something was due at school. Not a fun way to create things. After school was done I had an allergy to deadlines. I kept as far as I could away from any deadline inducing activity. I got nothing done. Deadlines are like broccoli, they might taste gross but they’re good for you*. I’m always amazed at the different in productivity on projects I have with deadlines and ones without. The ones without seem to drag on forever. The ones with deadlines are organized, moving and finished in a flash. One note that on deadlines is that they have to be intelligent. Having a goal to finish 80 hours of work in 2 days is just dumb. Make sure your goal fits in your schedule and you actually work on it and it will get done within the deadline.Chunk ItI love this one. Big hairy goals (and audacious ones if you want) are really difficult for your mind to comprehend when you go to do anything with it. You want to get fit? What does that mean? What steps are you going to take to get fit? When are you going to do those steps. Break it down to 20 minute steps. Not vague blocks that last a few hours, 20 minutes max. The less thinking and more doing you do when you sit down to work the better. That means laying out pre-defined chunks. You probably can’t chunk a whole project. That’s like planning your life 3 months in advance. Doesn’t work. Chunk your weeks into hour blocks on Monday then chunk your days each morning.Set the Finish LineThis came up in the SMART goals. It’s so important it deserves it’s own point. I’ll add one other important piece to it here. You have to set your finish line. Ask when you are done. If you don’t know, it’s not defined well enough. The key here is that you are limiting scope creep. You don’t want your project to get bigger and bigger and grow out of control. Do the things that are required and nothing more. If anything that comes up that could be a cool feature or would be nice to have add it to a Maybe list. After the project is done, look at the maybe list and see if there are any features that need doing.Limit InputThis tip has 2 parts to it. You need to limit input to your brain and limit input to your project while working on the project. The first has to do with your valuable time. The more stuff you read, watch and generally take in the less you’re working on your awesome project. Check your email only when you need to and cruise the news and social media channels after you’ve worked on your project. Only do what you’ve scheduled. Don’t lie to yourself about reading blogs and tweets when you’re just screwing around wasting time. Time is valuable, use it for your awesome project.The second part is limiting input to your project itself. When too many people want to give their input on something, it gets diluted and slides away from it’s original awesomeness. Don’t let that happen. Get some feedback once in a while to make sure you not doing dumb things while in isolation but once you’ve heard what you need, head back into the secret lab and get creating.Ship itNext to starting something, the most important part is finishing it. Seth Godin calls it shipping. Shipping, delivering, finishing, or the fat lady singing, you need to finish what you started. There is way too much unfinished stuff these days. I do it all the time, I’ll see some new shiny idea and start a project with it and then when the novelty wears off, it sits there. The problem with that is it takes up space in your mind when it’s unfinished. The clutter sticks around and you think about it off and on, distracting you from the important things.There are 2 things you can do after you start something. One is shipping it. This is the preferred option. Even if you just do a small project and then not follow up on any more ideas, it’s still shipping something. Do small projects then if you want to pivot or turn around then you don’t have a huge amount going on. You finish up your small project and you’re done. Start something new. Pivot complete.The second option is to kill it. This is when something just isn’t working. You don’t want it to drag on and use up time and resources. You know there’s no future in it. Don’t let it sit around and take up mind space, kill it.Share it and CelebrateYahoo! You’ve finished something. You’ve put the work in, shipped it and it’s done and gone. It’s time to revel in the fact that you are ten times farther than most people get with their projects. Even if it didn’t go well, remind yourself that you did something incredibly hard. You completed something. 100% is a good feeling. Give yourself a pat on the back, have a drink or some nice chocolate and look back on your accomplishment.Once you’ve relaxed a little and recognized your accomplishment, start more awesomeness.* I actually like broccoli but apparently some people don’t. That must mean I like deadlines too.