“To think is easy. To act is hard. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s not that you don’t finish projects.

It’s not that you are lazy.

It’s not that you are unfocused.

You just tend to be this way with certain projects. (As you know, for me, it’s my closet.)

This begs an important question: Why is it hard to finish some projects?

Your perception of time is certainly a factor. In fact, I offered up waiting for the perfect time as a culprit for what stops you and me from making progress on the projects we claim are important to us.

But another factor is mindset.

How you think about your projects and approach project management are an often overlooked, yet vitally important, aspect of getting the job done.

This is when the jobs-to-be-done theory and just-in-time management approach from the fields of innovation, management consulting and manufacturing become your friends. It can be helpful to apply these methods to your personal, professional and financial projects.

Let me remind (or introduce) you to JBTD and JIT before I describe how they can help with your unfinished projects.

Jobs-To-Be-Done: This is a framework used by companies to develop and market products and services according to the problem their customers are trying to solve, not what they want to sell.

Though the theory existed for many years, it was popularized by Harvard professor and researcher Clayton Christensen and his McDonald’s milkshake research wherein they discovered the reason more milkshakes were sold in the morning was that it was an easy “breakfast” to consume whilst someone was driving to work.

Just-in-Time: JIT was first developed as a manufacturing strategy designed to help companies reduce waste by only producing and delivering what was needed when it was needed. Now, almost every industry integrates JIT as a philosophy and process.

Do your projects, differently

There are three big-picture conversations I believe you need to have with yourself in order to get stuff done and finish your ambitious, deadline-free projects.


If the motivation of every product or service you buy is purchased to solve a specific problem – aka to get a job done: what’s the job of your unfinished project?

What problem is your project helping you solve, or, said differently, what desire is it helping you to fulfill?

Perhaps your project got interrupted or you never fully started it because you’re no longer clear about the purpose of the project and its role in your life.

  • What goal is this project helping you achieve?
  • How is it helping you evolve – personally and/or professionally?
  • When complete, what value will the project have (will it save you money, time, space, will it amp up your self-satisfaction)?

In addition to the above, what are you afraid of as it pertains to your unfinished project?

All projects take up space – whether it is physical, mental, emotional, financial or any combination of these. What space is your project taking up?

It goes back to the saying, “nature abhors a vacuum.” How does this apply to your project: could you be stalled because you don’t know what will fill the void once your project is complete?

Discover & Track

Just as I think it could be beneficial to look at your projects differently – through the lens of what’s the project’s job. I also think it is helpful to avoid the mistake of conflating the project with the process and tasks associated with completing the project!

This is important because I have no doubt you’re clear about the end-result that you want, but are you as clear or even clearer about the steps and tasks that get you to that end-result. Are your steps written out; are your tasks scheduled out on your calendar?

Just like your project overall has a “job,” so do each of the steps and tasks associated with getting it done. Make note of and then track them! Track when you complete a step and task; track when you don’t. And when you don’t, use that as an opportunity to improve your judgment skills about what it takes to get stuff done.

Remember, your project represents a process to make progress. (Don’t you just love alliteration!) Planning is nothing more than how you design your process to reach your ultimate goal.


Perhaps you’ve lost steam with your project because you’re waiting to be completely done before you reward yourself. I know I’m guilty of this, and it is silly of us to do. What if your project takes a year or longer to complete?!

Instead of waiting until you’re done, done, why not commit to rewarding yourself for each milestone you hit.

Unfinished projects eventually take a toll. It’s like a weight that gets heavier and heavier by the day, month, and year. In part because you’re frustrated with your lack of progress. But also because you’re having a hard time reconciling why you’re behaving this way with this project when you don’t with ALL your projects.

To get the project done, use the above as a framework to tap into the “why” behind your behavior and the choices you’re making. Use it to discover why it is hard to get this unfinished project done! Not with the goal of self-criticism and self-judgment, but with the goal of greater self-awareness.

And in that regard, here’s one more thing to add to your framework and yes it’s another question:

Is there a better way to do this?

It’s a broad enough question to give you insight into the overall scope of the project, which will help you see and identify leaks and opportunities within your process that you may have missed previously. Yet, it is just as useful to apply to almost any activity or task associated with your process.

Sometimes, getting stuff done requires looking at projects differently – how you think about them (i.e., their role in your life) and how you approach project management. If you experiment with the framework shared above, what I hope comes into clearer focus is that one of the jobs of your project is this: helping you to keep a promise to yourself.

p.s. I am pretty good at helping people keep the promises they make to themselves. Join us on September 25th for one of the ways. Click here.

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