First Published: April 6, 2021 | Last Updated: April 6, 2021

The gist: Finish is a great book about banishing perfectionism, rethinking goal setting, and making progress. Here's what it can teach you about making progress feel easier and finishing what you start.

Lowering your expectations and making your goals smaller are seriously underrated.

People talk so much shit about "thinking small" and "playing small," but what they don't realize is that thinking small in the short-term can help you go big in the long-term.

This is why I'm such a big fan of baby steps over big leaps when it comes to leaving our comfort zones.

Because taking smaller steps can take you a further distance overall.

Note: Some of these links are affiliate links. So if you decide to buy anything, I'll receive a commission. Most creators say something like "100% of this goes back into the business," but I'm not most creators. Some months it goes into the business, others it will be used to buy inappropriate amounts of chocolate. Remember, working brighter is about balance!

What I've realized from my Fitbit

As an example, let's consider Fitbit goals or other step goals for activity trackers.

I recently learned how many of my friends have a step counter with a goal set at 10,000 steps even though they never meet it.

The reason they have it is either:

  • They've heard 10,000 daily steps is what they "should" do
  • Their activity tracker came out of the box set at that and they've never changed it

Both are why I love to remind you to question defaults.

Because the 10,000 step goal is a default one, not one people set themselves. And goals you don't set yourself are way harder to reach. Setting goals you won't reach is just setting yourself up for disappointment.

My own Fitbit, on the other hand?

I've had one for about 8 years and it's spent about 2 hours with a 10,000 goal. That's estimating 15 minutes for every time I've needed to completely reset the device. ¯\(ツ)

Because 10,000 steps has NEVER made sense for me as a step goal.

When I first bought one, it was because I was recovering from ankle surgery and wanted to use it to help motivate myself.

The goal I set it at then was only 2,000 steps per day.

I could barely walk, so it wasn't about the number of steps I was taking. It was just about taking any at all along with my physical therapy exercises.

Over the years since then, I've slowly increased that step goal to 6,000.

Maybe one day I'll make it to 10k, maybe not. ¯\(ツ)

But I've met that step goal for the past 75 days now.

Compare that to the people I know with the default 10k goal set.

The friends I've talked to about this don't consider hitting the goal a regular occurrence, so they're at all motivated to meet it.

So they don't even try.

After all, what's one more day not hitting it, when you haven't any other day that week?

Plus, when it's the end of the day and you realize you haven't hit it yet, the "gap" between where you are and the goal is too big to try to bridge it.

But my step goal is always close enough that if I haven't met it by the time I'm starting to relax for the night, I can easily knock it out.

I know some people aren't fans of gamifying movement and exercise, and I totally get that it's not for everyone.

But for me, I KNOW it's what keeps me active, what reminds me to move throughout the day, and what motivates me to go for walks and dance around the apartment.

So until I start noticing it doing more harm than good, on my wrist it stays. WITH a nice, easy, manageable goal riiiight at the edge of my comfort zone, in keeping with my mindset around those.

Taking the small goal mindset further

It's funny, I came up with this topic around last Wednesday, when a friend and I were talking about our step goals in DMs.

But then this weekend, I was reviewing my notes from the book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, and the reminder was there, too.

One of the 10 ways the author, Jon Acuff, gives you to making more progress on your goals, is cutting them in half.

An example he gives is of someone who wasn't regularly meeting their 300-word daily writing goal. When they cut it back to 100-words, not only were they meeting that goal more often, they were actually exceeding it and hitting the 300-word goal more often than before.

It kinda felt like a sign I needed the reminder, and you might too.

Like I said, lowering your expectations...it's magic. ✨

amy poehler dancing with her arms and saying lower your expectations

So today I want to share with you all of my other favorite takeaways from Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

Are you ready to start working brighter?

Productivity isn't black and white, it's personal as hell. And there's no single lifehack or framework to solve your problems. 

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How to make it easier to finish what you've started

Stop relying on grit

We're taught that the reason we don't make progress is because we don't try hard enough or have enough grit.

But trying harder isn't the answer, making progress easier is. (This is also talked about in the book Burnout, which I've also reviewed.)

So, if trying harder and working smarter aren't the answer, what is?

Things like having fun, choosing smaller goals, purposely failing, and other interesting tactics outlined in the rest of the book.

Reject perfectionism

Perfectionism disguises itself as excellence and tells you that if you're not going to do it perfectly or every day, there's no use doing it at all.

But you're going to mess up at some point. So to actually finish, you need to accept imperfection.

Make your goals smaller

Another lie of perfectionism is that your goal should be bigger. That anything outside the traditionally accepted version of success is "playing small."

But the opposite is true when you account for the planning fallacy, which is a big part of the theory behind practical planning.

We're horrible at accurately predicting how long things will take, so it's a mistake to trust our first instincts with plans and goals.

We either need to make the goal smaller, or extend our goal deadline out further instead.

In most cases, adjusting your goal or falling short still gets you further than if you'd did nothing or quit completely. Like with my smaller step goal on my Fitbit, or the writing word count goal mentioned earlier.

Choose to fail (at some things)

You can't do it all. Instead of trying to, what to bomb in order to succeed at what matters.

This prevents the shame that comes when you take on too many things and drop all the balls.

You can either choose to put some down in advance or create systems to keep them in the air without you.

And for things you can't drop, simplify. Think of it as a red, yellow, green light system.

Find the fun

Perfectionism tells us the harder something is, the better, so fun goals don't count.

But if you want to reach your goals, you need to make them fun.

Figuring out the right way to make it fun for you personally starts by knowing what motivates you more in the situation: rewards or fear.

Know your hiding places and noble obstacles

Hiding places are activities you focus on instead of your goal. For example, how when I don't want to reply to emails my apartment gets REALLY clean.

Noble obstacles are reasonable sounding reasons for not making progress. For example, "I can't start a YouTube channel because I have low energy."

They're all limiting beliefs. And while I speak a lot about how the concept of limiting beliefs is often used to spiritually bypass people with real trauma, they do exist.

Other people are just really bad at guessing them.

Watch out for secret rules

Watch out for secret rules we create for ourselves to move the goalposts to avoid finishing. A big way this shows up is creating qualifiers for ourselves around "what counts."

Like telling ourselves "to count," something needs to be difficult, we need to be miserable, it can't come naturally, etc.

Identify them. Destroy them. Replace them.

Track and celebrate progress

Failure is loud and progress is quiet. But...

Data can help you see through that dissonance, and give yourself proof that you're moving along. (This is why I love habit tracking and bullet journaling so much.)

It also helps you see and make potential adjustments when you're feeling stuck.

Data can either prove process or progress. And through analyzing it you can adjust your goal, timeline, or actions.

Are you ready to start working brighter?

Productivity isn't black and white, it's personal as hell. And there's no single lifehack or framework to solve your problems. 

Sign up to get weekly tips and stories to help you create your OWN definition of productivity working better and brighter.

Phone a friend

Sometimes, like right before you cross your goal's finish line, the fear of success gets bigger than ever.

It can also be harder to have breakthroughs on your own because there's so little progress left to make.

It can be helpful to call a friend and talk it out and see if they can see anything you can't.

Finish What You Start

Finish was a great book. It was easy to read with even easier to try goal setting adjustments. Which one do you think would work best for you right now? Comment on the video and let us know.

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