Finishing What You Start

There are two things that I am really good at: big ideas and starting strong. I love thinking of the big-picture and of the long-term. My wife and I talk all the time about our plans for the next year, 5 years, 20 years, etc… On top of that, I often feel like I am always up and always working on something. ┬áMy nature is to just jump in and try to tackle and idea or problem right away with as much energy as I can devote to it. Usually, I start out really strongly and, depending on the project and how much I care about it, continue strongly for a period of time before it tapers off. Some recent examples:

  • I wanted a Web 2.0 tool that could make a simple and aesthetically pleasing email signature easily. I spent a weekend diving right into code despite the fact that I had not coded anything in probably 6 months (I wrote an online textbook tracking program for one of my old schools once upon a time.). I got a rough copy working in 2 days. Despite support and positive feedback from my PLN, I have not kept it up. I know exactly what features it needs to make it a really great site, but I have not devoted the time to learning the necessary Javascript to make it become so.
  • Techniques for Effective Technology Integration: In the spring semester of last year, I started writing a book after getting a lot of support from my PLN. I wrote an outline and even published drafts of the introduction and the first 3 chapters. Then, I got distracted by life and haven’t gotten back to it yet.

So, why am I writing about all of this? The answer is twofold. When dealing with student motivation, we need to be wary of operating in a strictly long-term modality. Telling students that they should do a homework assignment because it will be harder for them to get accepted into a good college if they do not is really not an effective motivator for most students. People have a hard time relating the consequences of the short-term to their longer-term futures. Similarly, if students are working on an extended project (i.e. several weeks), there should be checkpoints and smaller goals so that students can gain feedback and share progress.

Second, many of you know the situation I am currently in and I am not going to devote many more words to it hear. In short, though, I may have more time on my hands than usual during the school year this year. I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting another book with the working title of Professional Development 2.0, covering all things blogs, Twitter, EduPLN, unconferences (TeachMeet/EdCamp/Barcamp, etc…), and more. The only thing discouraging me is the worry that I will start yet another worthwhile (at least in my opinion) project and not finish it. It also does not help that my wife’s computer broke, so we are sharing one 7-year old Thinkpad.

What do you think? Should I undertake the project or focus on more down-to-earth endeavors? How do you keep motivated and on-track with your own long-term projects? I appreciate any feedback.

2 comments to Finishing What You Start

  • ktenkely
    Twitter: ktenkely

    Jason, I struggle with this as well. It is hard to keep the momentum going when the initial drive and “high” wears off and other obligations and responsibilities creep in. I feel like I come by this honestly, my dad is notorious for his incredible vision, ideas and drive. He is also notorious for starting a project strong and never seeing it to completion. For me, it helps to see this characteristic in my dad. I often get frustrated that he hasn’t finished the book he started writing about the connection between nature, science, and a creator (I know I am biased, but seriously CS Lewis beautiful writing). I get frustrated when he starts building an amazing armoir in the garage only to have it half built and holding paint a year later. I get frustrated when he comes up with an amazing concept for a company and doesn’t get the chance to see it to completion. For him, it isn’t that the drive isn’t there, but the initial high has worn off and the things he has to do have stacked up to the point where he just doesn’t have time to finish them.
    When I start noticing myself following that tendency, I have to take a step back, look at my priorities and make a list. I try not to add anything to the list until I have devoted some time (even if it is 15min here or there) to whatever I am doing. I have found that finding a place to start again and then actually doing it gives me the energy I need to finish the project, it renews my interest. I have also found that when I initially get the idea and feel that excitement over a new project, if I write about the idea and why I am so enthusiastic, I have something to read later when the initial enthusiasm wears off. Sometimes all I need to do is be reminded of why I was feeling so passionate about it in the first place.
    Finish those projects that you started, it will feel good to do it and give you the drive to start the next thing. I don’t know if you have ever read Dave Ramsey but he has a Snowball/baby step theory in money management. List your debt from smallest to largest and then pay them off one by one regardless of interest rates. Then when you have paid one off, you can cross it off the list and feel a sense of accomplishment. If you did the same with projects (least about of time/energy to most) you could start finishing them and gaining momentum to go on to the next thing.
    Good luck, I look forward to the books :)
    ktenkely´s last blog post ..The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That

  • Jason Bedell
    Twitter: jasontbedell

    Thank you for the advice. It is both helpful and insight and I really do appreciate it.

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