I’m about to drop something really obvious on you, so don’t give me shit: finishing things. It’s hard.
It’s not even just the actual work of finishing a long project. Have you ever been three steps from completing something monumental, and then suddenly you’re more stressed than you were in the beginning? There is less work to do than ever, but the end seems at once far, far away and frighteningly close.
In the murky depths of that coffee-fueled haze of stress and ambition, you must overcome five demons in order to finally see your work through…
1. I can do it whenever, there’s not much left.
This hell-beast of a thought will take a few half-logical steps and have you convinced that, no really man, you don’t need to finish right now. I mean, there’s not that much to do, anyway, so why worry? You could finish any time you want. You just don’t feel like it right now. But like, it’ll be fine.
How to vanquish Procrastination: Make a realistic plan to finish. Break it down into small tasks. Don’t save the hardest thing for last, and at least make sure you’re doing something every day.
2. I’m so stressed! I need to take it easy.
This demon lure you in with the idea of sitting around on a sunlit porch, drinking S.Pellegrino with your friends and listening to the new Hozier album in peace. She holds in her grubby little hands a promise:
You can have it both ways. You can relax for a while and still finish your journey later.
It will feel like taking a vacation is the best way to recharge before you tackle your project’s home stretch. But when you’re in the grip of this demon, a vacation can last a very…
How to vanquish Denial: Remember her tricks. Remember that stress is necessary sometimes. Ignoring the task at hand will only put more pressure on you in the future.
3. Everything must be perfect or I’ll die.
Just one more thing, and one more, and one more…
This demon will keep you trapped in the finishing touches. There will always be one tiny edit to make, or even several big edits. All your hard work up ’till now hasn’t been good enough. How could you have thought you were close to finishing?
How to vanquish Perfectionism: Heed this warning: it is far better to complete a good painting than it is to never, ever complete a masterpiece. The world deserves to see what you’ve done — even if it isn’t perfect. You can always publish a second edition.
4. This was a dumb idea in the first place.
You thought you could finish the thing? Fool. Idiot. Scoundrel. You don’t have what it takes. You don’t have the guts, the skill, or the talent. Even if you did finish it, it would be a piece of shit. Don’t even bother. This was a mistake. You’ve been wasting your time. Give up.
This demon will hit you with full-force doubt. You’re so close to being done, but all of a sudden you start to wonder: what’s the point? It’s not just bad execution, no, your little project has been doomed since the start. It was a bad concept.
How to vanquish last-minute Regret:
The truth is, you’ve already put so much effort into the thing you’re doing, it would be an even bigger waste not to finish. Think of how satisfied you’ll feel when it’s done. Make a list of ten things you like about your project. Think back to what originally motivated you to try this. Are you going to help people? Create beauty? Fix a problem? The truth is, you’re only doubting yourself now because you’re scared to see your little brain-baby come into the world of real things. Let it happen. Don’t be a coward. This was a great idea.
5. Suddenly I have too many emotions about ______.
Of all the demons, this one is the easiest to miss. It relies on deception. It’s hard to spot because the problems it presents will likely be very real.
You really need to get all the clutter in your life under control. You have to create a schedule to fertilize that garden. Your skin is so dry — should you get that checked out? Those old family photos won’t organize themselves.
Keep a careful eye out for big dramatic emotions about big worldwide issues or existential angst. Am I going to die alone? What should we do about human trafficking? If I weren’t so selfish would I go vegan?
All important problems, but is now really the time?
How to vanquish Distraction:
Remember that you will feel more confident and capable of solving these other issues once you’ve finished the thing you really need to finish. Believe it or not, they can wait. You will be more effective when you can devote real time and effort to coming up with solutions to your worries, instead of just… worrying.
So you’ve been introduced to the five demons of completion: procrastination, denial, perfectionism, regret, and distraction. You’ve learned how to recognize and defeat their tricky ways. Now there’s something you should be doing right now, isn’t there? What was that?
Get out there and kick some ass!