This article originally appeared in Inc.
Maybe it’s the start of a new year, month or even one random morning and you’ve set an intention or goal that will help you be a better version of yourself. Motivated and full of gusto, you accomplish the task on the first day and give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done. Now, think back: How often have you made it to Day 30 or Day 300 of completing a new daily habit? Unfortunately, I’d venture to argue, it’s not very often.
People are people. We’re human. We forget, we get distracted, we take on too much–and we often find ourselves frustrated that we aren’t able to finish what we start. Have you ever been there?
Here are three main culprits behind why we don’t finish what we start, and how to overcome them:
I call multitasking a mystery because it has snuck into our daily lives and convinced us it is a good thing, when really it’s a colossal waste of time. Our lives have become so busy that we think multitasking is the only way to get things done. We chase the bouncing ball moving from emailing, to texting, to working on a project, to looking up plane tickets or a new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try and before you know it, you’ve drained your energy on 12 little activities, ultimately not finishing any one task. Be mindful of how often you switch tasks during your work day and use your willpower (or a helpful tool like the Pomodoro Method) to keep your attention tied to one thing at a time. While it may take a bit of practice to get used to, trust me, you’ll be amazed at the results.
Your brain is more important than you may think. It doesn’t just house your cognitive function, but it is also responsible for driving you towards or further away from your goals. You may be unconsciously listening to the negative thoughts or chatter running through your brain, which affects your ability to focus and execute. If you think that could be the case, try making a list of the reasons you don’t want to complete something and a second list of every reason you do. Having negative thoughts on a piece of paper gives them less power over your brain. When you aren’t ruminating on negative thoughts, your brain is free to pursue goals that promise useful, valuable rewards and outcomes.
Many of the things we start and aspire to finish are tied to our big dreams. These can be things such as earning a six-figure salary, running a marathon, losing 10 pounds, paying off debt or purchasing a vacation home. These are all incredible and worthy dreams, but the problem is they are entirely too vague to incite proper action. When you find yourself identifying a big dream, start by listing all of the steps needed to achieve that dream, then break those steps down further into even more steps, creating a series of tasks that can be easily completed and marked off. Committing to a goal requires hyper-specificity and detailed step-by-step planning. When you’ve spent time on the front end planning, you end up with a clear roadmap for your desired outcome.
Don’t be the person who looks back on your life and wishes that you finished what you started. By identifying these roadblocks and taking steps to overcome them, you will be equipped to cross any finish line you set your mind to.