It’s Thursday afternoon and Luisa is still making the final touches to the Leadership Training contract. The client expected to have received it by now and Luisa feels the pressure bearing down on her. The trainers delivered their input on time, the content has been agreed on and legal has approved. The proposal is ready to go! So why doesn’t Luisa *just hit send*. Instead, she stares at thescreen with her stomach in knots and feels completely stuck. She decides to read through the 15 -page document ‘one last time’ even though she knows in her heart that it’s ready. Even as she starts reading it through, she knows it’s her way of procrastinating further, and the list of tasks she still needs to get done only continues to get longer… 

So, why couldn’t she just send the proposal off and move on?

Luisa is someone who finds it hard to finish things.

Are you like this too? Do you get close to the finishing line and then start procrastinating? Have you ever wondered what is causing the delay?
Perhaps I can shed some light on this for you.

Short answer? Perfectionism and fear of not doing it right.

Whether it’s an ADHD issue or simply your personality, the inner perfectionist could be causing thisproblem. The perfectionist saboteur has exceptionally high standards that are impossible to achieve.And even if you do get close, the perfectionist will raise the bar even higher!

Or perhaps you have the voice of the ‘critical primary teacher’ on a loop inside your brain constantly pointing out your mistakes. No wonder you freeze up! It’s while in this state of fear that you find yourself constantly checking ‘just one more time’, delaying that moment when you must hit send. If this is the case, then here’s something you can try.

First of all, ask yourself: What does finished look like?

If you don’t know what the final project looks like, how will you know when you have reached the end? I find it helpful to explicitly state what the finished project looks like, including how I will feel.

For example, my final criteria might include:

– All sections, intro, part 1, part 2, conclusions are written.
– Data has been checked and references clear.
– Editing and proofreading done.
– Document formatting is consistent.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your emotions. So, take a minute to think about how completion will feel. This will help your subconscious mind to know when the job is done.

Letting Go is Hard

Some of us struggle with the act of letting go. Sometimes you invest months of time, energy, and emotion into a project so by the time you reach completion you are reluctant to finish.

I remember working as a project manager in a training department – I was responsible for making the product training manuals. These manuals took months of collaboration, working with interesting people, high energy meetings, the adrenaline rush and the fun of the chase. These projects consumed my every waking hour. When a product training manual was finished, and signed off by all relevant parties, the last thing I had to do was to wrap things up and publish the manual on our internal portal. I will never forget my embarrassment the day the Account Manager came and asked me why the training manual had not been published and made accessible. I had been sitting on it for more than two weeks! Local European training managers had been complaining that it wasn’t available. I sat there dumbfounded as I could not explain my behavior.

When I examined what was going on, I realized that I was experiencing a low-grade sadness about this project ending. I’d become attached to the project, it was my baby, it had given my days focus, structure and rhythm. There was a huge sense of loss at not having this project to attend to every day. In its place was an uneasy feeling of emptiness. So, my ‘not finishing’ was linked to avoidance of pain. I was avoiding the good-bye and the empty vacuum left would remain.

This insight has taught me that it is very important to keep your eye on the pipeline and make sure you have a new goal or project to get busy with once you send off your current baby. The excitement generated by the new project will help you to finish and let go.

So, the next time you find yourself dragging your feet instead of finishing something, check in to see what’s causing the delay. Is it your perfectionist, is it because you don’t know where the finish line is, or are you avoiding the pain of letting go?

When you know the true cause of the block, you’ll know exactly what strategy to use reach FINISHED!


Happy finishing!