Finish What You Start

Finish what you start. Learn what you need to know. Keep the scope small.

November 08, 2018

This is something that I have never upheld well. I give up too easy, and bail when it matters. My word isn’t worth very much to some people, and that’s an awful thing to say.

I want to be regarded as someone who does what he says he will do, and nothing less. It doesn’t matter how much money is on the table, it doesn’t matter how long it will take, it doesn’t matter who it’s for or who it’s with.

When you think of things that way, you’ll say yes less often. You’ll think about the things you commit to. You’ll be more valuable in the areas that mean the most to you.

I typically say yes too quickly without counting the cost of what I have committed to. And it’s not inherently wrong to say yes to things, but it’s wrong to go back on your word. Saying yes to things is what can help you learn. You need applications to put to action what you have learned.

This makes for a great way to quickly learn new skills at a deep level. You have to actually ship something.

But, when you already have other commitments that are taking up your time, then you have to compare it to your current priorities.

It’s easy to justify something when you think you can do it quickly. “Oh, that will only take a day or two” I’ll say. Then it turns in to a week. Two weeks. A month. There’s absolutely 0% of a chance that I will be able to dedicate two entire days to a project within two days of saying yes to the project.

Overestimate, Overinflate, Plan

The best way to approach any sort of side-work, client applications, or work in general, is to over budget the time, money, and tasks needed for the work. That way, when you finish it early, under budget and in fewer steps, everyone is delighted.

Sure, you get better at estimating the time needed to do a project the better you get at the tasks, but it’s still better to estimate for the worst and plan for the best.

Inevitably, there will be a hang-up or thing that you’ll need to work through to solve a problem. You don’t actually know how long it will take to figure it out, so you don’t actually know if you will be able to finish things as fast as your initial budget allowed. What’s the solution? Over budget.

Planning is critical to projects, even the small ones. Having a concrete path and/or plan that you can follow will not only help you but it will help other people know where you are at in the process. Communicating this often will allow them to be more flexible if the schedule slips.

Learning On The Job

It’s okay to learn on the job, that’s how most new things get done. If you’re not learning, then you’re not growing and becoming more valuable.

But, that also needs to be accounted for when budgeting time to a project. You need to know how fast you can learn, and how fast you can get the information you need.

Sometimes, you might even need to buy a book, or a course, or something that will give you the step-by-step approach so you know exactly how long it will take to know what you need to know.

Learning should be specific, not generic. If you don’t need something to finish the project, don’t learn it. If you want to learn something, find some way to use that thing in a project. But don’t just learn to learn. Then you will get stuck consuming instead of creating, and you’ll never ship anything. And when you never ship anything, then you are unreliable and no one can trust your word.

Finish what you start. Learn what you need to know. Keep the scope small. Over budget time and money. Delightfully surprise you, your friends, and your clients when you ship consistently early.