Dear unfocused friend… Sometimes it is frustrating to be us because we are BIG IDEA people. We are creative people! So when we get a BIG idea we are excited about we go after it hard core parkor until we aren’t excited about it anymore. Then we end up with half-finished projects, half knitted scarves and half-finished scrapbooks. Our craft closets become a grave yard of unfinished dreams that we were passionate about for 24 hours.
If this happens to you on the regular, I totally get it. It’s a real life struggle for me too that goes beyond crafts. This inability to finish what I start bleeds into other areas of my life making me feel like an even bigger mess sometimes.
So how do we overcome this regular tendency to not finish what we start? Here are 8 tips I’ve learned to help me be more efficient and successful at the projects that I start in my own life!
1. Accept How Your Brain Is Wired
First of all, you need to accept that this is the way your brain is wired and there isn’t much you can do to willfully change it. You have to work with it rather than trying to whip it into shape all the time.
What happens often to us is that we get super excited about starting some project for some reason. We buy all the supplies. We dive in. We burn out. Why? I believe it’s because initially the project we are pursuing is causing our brains to release dopamine and it makes us feel good! The more our brain is rewarded, the more we want to work on that project. In fact we can hyper focus on that project we are doing because it’s so much fun that we lose track of space and time. 4 hours later we are shocked that so much time has passed.
At some point, our brain stops being excited about that project and when the enthusiasm fades, we leave the project behind. We even forget about it until we see it while we are cleaning out said craft closet.
So first things first, we have to accept that this is the way it’s going to be because it’s the way we are wired. So how do we work with our brain?
2. Stop Trying To Be Martha
We are just Pinterest girls living in a Pinterest world. The illusion of perfect recipes, perfect barn weddings, perfect home décor, perfectly packed school lunches all leave us feeling pretty imperfect all the time.
We have these people we follow that we want to be like who make everything they touch beautiful, delicious and amazing. While it seems like everything we touch is just… so so, okay and not so perfect. That is okay. We are not those people. Their brains and personalities are wired differently. They would be bothered by a scuff on the floor that we wouldn’t even notice. They could work on a project for 6 months that we would get bored with after a day. So don’t try to be someone you’re not. Accept who you are and do what you do best in the time and environments you do them best in.
3. Stick with Simple Tasks that take less time.
I’ve learned that the best way for me to finish what I start is to do small projects that I can complete in 2 hours or less. In fact, if you look around my blog you’ll see that I’m all about 15 minute recipes and crafts that take less than 30 minutes to complete.
That’s because I know that we need small wins. We need to do activities we enjoy that can be made in the time it takes for us to be excited, buy the supplies and just get it done. If it’s longer than 3 hours, our brains and our interests just throw in the towel.
I’ve recently thrown in the towel on scrapbooking and I’m using an app called Chatbooks that grabs my phone favorites or Instagram photos and makes and instant scrapbook for me then ships it to me!
Work with your wiring and keep your projects simply and easy to complete in a short amount of time.
4. Always Sleep On It
Since we have a tendency to be super excited about certain projects, tasks or contributions that seem interesting to us, we will often take on far more than we can handle on a whim.
I’ve had people ask me to take on mega sewing projects that in the moment seemed like the most awesome project in the world. So I said an immediate, “YES!”. Then I wake up the next day and realize how long the project is going to take and how little I’m now interested (or even how little I’m getting paid) but it’s too late. So then I sacrifice time spent on other important things to do this thing I’m not really even into which makes me almost bitter as I work on it.
I have found that if I get a new idea or I get asked to help with something, I created a policy to sleep on it and see how I feel about it the next day. If I wake up still excited about the project, then I can go get the supplies I need to work on it. Always tell people, “I’ll need a day or so to think about it.” Don’t give into pressure- it’s your life, your time and your family time that you are trading so don’t be afraid to control it!
5. Don’t Put it Out of Sight Out of Mind
The saying, “Out of sight out of mind” is both a good thing and bad thing for me. When it comes to chocolate or cookies, if I hide those items out of sight, I forget they are there and I don’t eat them all in two days. On the other hand, it’s not so great when I “hide” away important papers, crafts, projects or put away important tasks out of my field of vision because I’ll never go back and manage them. I need my projects to be out and visible so I remember what I’m working on.
6. Keep Supplies Easy To Access
Another way my brain is wired is that if I’m on the fence about whether I want to work on something or not, having the materials to do the project together in one place and easily accessible, improves the odds that I’ll lean on the side of completing it.
If I have to hunt down all my supplies for 20 minutes to work on a task for 30, I get easily frustrated and my brain is already tired by the time I do start! So if you struggle with completing what you start I say that if you can’t complete in one setting that you keep what you have completed handy with all the materials so when you feel strongly about working on it again, you can just grab it all and go to work! That might mean storing it all in a decorative basket by your couch or neatly on your desk.
7. Use a Timer
One last resort that I use when trying to complete tasks is setting up a timer to count down as I work on it. I say, I want to complete this task in this amount of time and make it game to beat the buzzer. This might be housework, writing projects, crafting or even packing up my family’s bags. It gives your brain a sense of urgency and boundaries! See you can trick your brain into doing what you want it to even when you struggle with focus!
8. Always have a list
I know that seem like a no brainer thing but a lot of people just don’t take the time to write down exactly what we want to accomplish. The best kind of list for unfocused people in my opinion is not one that’s broken down by the day, but just one, ongoing list on a single sheet of paper that you clip to the fridge with a magnet or even better a segmented list. If you want to learn all about segmented to-do lists, sign up for my free Conquer Your To-Do List Mini-Course here.
The ongoing and segmented list helps your brain process all the things you need to get done and it allows you to decide which item you feel most like doing at the time. So instead of boxing yourself into one activity for the day that you don’t find particularly exciting or stimulating, you can make one list, review it and decide what seems most intriguing to you at the time. That will make it far more likely that you succeed at finishing something you want to work on.
You might read that and think I’m saying that you should be led around by your emotions but that’s not what I mean… exactly. Anything that’s on your list should be productive in some way. Some days you have the energy to clean the microwave and some days you don’t! So it’s perfectly acceptable to make a trade for an activity you need to do anyway that seems more interesting to you at the time! The important thing is that you are actually finishing what you start!
I really hope you have found these tips super helpful. If you struggle with focus on a regular basis, check out my 5 Day Complete Life Management Course and Workbook! I think it will help you finally help you work with your brain instead of against it in all areas of your life!
Kim’s is the party planning, thrifty life-loving, intentional living catalyst behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. Kim was a pro event planner for over 7 years before she became a full-time blogger. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, and more! Kim aims to inspire you to create, celebrate, and live life intentionally!