on finishing what you started…

I have a problem. That is, for as long as I can remember, I have a tendency of never finishing what I start – not even food. For instance, before writing this entry right at this very moment, I was in the kitchen prepping for dinner, and halfway through doing it, out of nowhere I decided to take out the dirty clothes for laundry, then ended up leaving everything hanging and got back to my room to finish my half-written email, and here I am, blabbering on my blog for you to read later.

I know, I know – as a postgraduate student who is spending my fourth and final year at university, I should now be able to handle these issues with ease – such as time management and, of course, chronic procrastination. However, from running daily errands to working on tasks/assignments to embarking on new interests, I’m guilty of constantly getting interrupted/distracted by something else while trying to concentrate on accomplishing and perfecting one single task. One minute I’m dropping down my plans for the week in my schedule, next I find myself lost in my own introspection on life. But let’s be honest, I can’t be the only one.

Most people would say their lack of productivity is due to procrastination. But for me personally, and probably for a number of you out there, it’s slightly more complicated. I believe it all comes down to the 3P’s – perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis. It’s a vicious cycle – you strive for goals so high it almost seems impossible to achieve, and because of your fear of making the tiniest mistake, you drag on, you procrastinate, you refuse to get the ball rolling – which inevitably, leads to paralysis. The truth is, the Perfectionist Paralysis will ruin you.

Please allow me to illustrate my real life struggles as a mediocre perfectionist and mega procrastinator for the past twenty years of my life. When it came to a school task being assigned, there was 9.5 times out of 10 I’d wait around, taking all the time in the world to make the perfect plans in my head – or, just keeping it at the back of my mind until two days before the deadline, then freak out when I finally realised I’d have two days left. Unsurprisingly, I’d end up rushing through every piece of assignment, dying to come up with something – anything, so that I could hand it in before the clock struck 00:00.

The same outcome followed every time I embarked on a newfound interest/activity, in fact, it was a lot worse. Because it wasn’t an assignment to be handed in and no strict due dates were given, I would tend to drag on even more during the learning progress, and eventually, shifting interests from one to another. I guess that’s why my mom says I’m a “half bucket of water” – a saying in Cantonese meaning you can’t master in anything you do. If only I was just a bit more persistent, if only.

So how do you overcome that sickening habit of wanting to perfectionise every darn thing that you do? How do you stop procrastinating? How do you commit to finishing what you start?

“For chronic procrastination, this is not an issue of time management. You can’t manage time. You manage yourself.”― Joseph Ferrari

Right, you manage yourself. Very helpful indeed. But how?

Finally, after a thoughtful and prolonged contemplation (with the help of The Almighty Internet, of course), I’ve concluded three points that I think are working best for me so far.

    • Quit getting stuck in the details
      As the expression goes, “we often miss the forest for the trees”. The longer you linger on a specific detail that you are trying to perfect, the longer you will get it done and the more likely you will lose motivation over time. But maybe all you need to do is to slightly alter your mindset, or try not to do it your usual way. Why not work your way around then focus on the details? Because you can always go back to do your proofread and spell checks, or even redo certain parts, but you surely won’t be getting anywhere if you can’t move on from one detail to another. Focus on the big picture.
    • A bad habit is just a habit after all
      Knowing that procrastination is just a bad habit, and that it only takes 66 days to change a habit. Commit yourself to a new good habit and constantly remind yourself about it. Set alarms on your phone. Put it on paper – write post-its and stick them to your bedroom wall, the ceiling, and your bathroom mirror. Baby steps do make a difference, and persistence is key.

“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.” ― Charles Duhigg

    • Reward yourself
      The fact is, we often overlook the importance of rewarding ourselves. In one of my recent favorite reads “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg says that habits work as a cycle – consisting of a trigger, the habit itself, and the reward. And when the brain is exposed to a certain cue, it’ll go on autopilot because it craves the reward it expects to come in the end.

Rewarding yourself once in a while never hurt anyone. So go ahead and finish that cake, I promise I’m not gonna judge. (See what I did there? Always finish what you start, especially food – food wasting is a sin. Well, for me anyway.)

2 thoughts on “on finishing what you started…

  1. Hi Vicki,

    Thank you for linking to my “3 P’s” article/class on Perfectionism, Procrastination and Paralysis. I’d like to point out all of the things you *have* finished — you finished high school (or the equivalent in England), you finished this blog post, and it looks like you’re very close to graduating from university. I’ve discovered that many creative people and successful entrepreneurs feel like you do, but it’s because they have so many wonderful ideas and are so creative and curious, that it’s hard to sit down and work on just one thing. So as long as you end up accomplishing the big things, it’s ok to go back and forth a little!


    1. Hi Gina, I’m so glad to have come across your article online, it gave me so much food for thought! Haha and yes I did manage to accomplish a couple things in life, though I admit I struggled at times. I also want to thank you for commenting on my first post, it really encourages me to keep this up!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s