What to do about unfinished projects

Gdansk, Poland // own photo

 

I have quite a few unfinished projects. You know, the ones that you start and never quite complete. These include a half-finished crochet bag, a partly-knitted cardigan for my daughter, a drafted article for a magazine, and many others. Every time I come across any of these projects, or even begin to think about them, I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty about not being able to find the time and the energy to complete them. I feel guilty about the time I have already invested and the resources I have already used. And the fact that I start to perceive myself as unaccountable doesn’t make the situation any better.

Every time I am confronted with my unfinished assignment I promise to myself that I will find some time in the nearest future to complete it. This helps for a while. This helps until the next time I come across my unfinished work, and then end up in the same loop: the guilt – the promise – the temporary relief – the oblivion.

I have decided that I need to do something about all these uncompleted assignments. Not only do they take up space in my house but they also clutter my mind. And so my new quest has began: to find a way to deal with them once and for all.

What to do about unfinished projects

The most important thing is to identify them. I did two things: I made a list of the ones I could remember, and I decided that if I came across any other uncompleted work, I would deal with it straight away.

The list is a living document that I often refer to. The first time I made it, I went through every item, considered it and either kept it or removed it. I am dealing with the items on my list on everyday basis and tick them off once they are completed (and what a good feeling that is!). The list is kept in the notes on my phone for easy access.

I decided not to think about the projects that I remove from the list, and, in this way, to unclutter my mind. If they are tangible projects, I physically get rid of them, nevertheless the stage of completion.

How not to feel guilty about getting rid of unfinished work

Sometimes it is still difficult for me to throw away a partly-done project. I think about all the hours I spent working on it, about the money I invested, and about what it could have become. I don’t like waste, and getting rid of something that could be of any use seems like a crime. On the other hand, if I wasn’t able to complete a particular job in, let’s say, the past two years, there is hardly any chance I still will.

What helps me not to feel bad about getting rid of a partly-completed project is considering what I will gain by doing so. And what is my gain? A peace of mind and a cleared space; a space that could be used for moving forward with a new idea.

Why are we so attached to our unfinished projects?

Have you ever felt that you should not give up even though all signs say that your project is not going to be a successful one? You might be a victim of ‘sunk cost fallacy’. This is when an investment, a financial or an emotional one, becomes the only reason to carry on. You might have invested a lot of money, energy or effort into something, and you just want to be consistent. My advice? Take time to reconsider, evaluate pros and cons of continuing, and make a well thought-through decision. You might get an injection of energy or you might decide to discontinue. But don’t carry on just for the sake of consistency.

How to set up a reasonable framework for completing unfinished project

If you decide to keep your project on you ‘to-do’ or ‘to-be-completed’ list I suggest that you start working on it as soon as possible. What works best for me is assigning a time slot every day to finish off my project. It could be any amount of time, really. I think that 5 minutes of a regular daily effort is much more than nothing. And this is how I completed my crocheted rug project; a project that I did in 1/3 and left untouched for about 1 year. Surprisingly, even to me, I completed it in 3 days.

I am not a huge fan of deadlines so I collected all my unfinished jobs and started to work on them, one by one. If you, however, like deadlines, you might want to give yourself a specific time frame. If the project is still unfinished after that day, just remove it from your life without any remorses.

 

Your challenge: do it now or forget about it without feeling guilty and move on.

 

To read more about ‘sunk cost fallacy’ refer to chapter 5 of ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ by Rolf Dobelli.

 

What makes a minimalist? Can I call myself a minimalist?

Gloomy Copenhagen // own photo

 

Can I call myself a minimalist?

If you came into my house today, probably you wouldn’t say that a minimalist lived there. You would most likely need to have another glance at my place. You would need to go through my drawers and bookshelves. Perhaps you would need to check my computer files and my cabinets. Then you would realise that I do have a minimalistic approach.

Yes, I call myself a minimalist but it doesn’t mean that I live in a cave unsurrounded by objects. To me, being a minimalist is about having the ability to filter through things and ideas in order to identify those most important. It is about finding out what is most essential. It is about reducing the number of distractions to make space for what is most meaningful. It is about making the right choices. It is about staying focused on what really matters and getting rid of the rest, be it ideas, people, everyday items etc.

My minimalism is a journey. Most often I succeed but I also fail. It is an ongoing process of self-improvement through which I am still learning to make a better use of things. I don’t want to be defined by the things I own, yet, on the other hand, what I own is an expression of myself.

The biggest learning so far has been realising that I can live without; without so many books, without a lot of kitchenware, or without boxes filled with keepsakes. But I have also learned that I like to collect certain items, i.e. I have quite a number of shoes because I simply love footwear and fashion.

My successes as a minimalist

Never quite a collector, I anyway managed to assemble a considerable amount of objects. One of my accomplishments is getting rid of a lot of them, including books, CD’s, DVD’s. At the same time I realised that I do not need to store any of such because of the advances of technology. This decision has made me reduce the number of books I buy today in print as I have moved towards e-books.

My other success is that I decluttered my closet. I got rid of everything I did not like or used any longer. Now I only own clothes I really like which makes my life much easier and more pleasurable. I simply don’t need to make difficult clothing choices every morning;  I can take the first thing from the closet and I am sure I will feel good wearing it.

The minimalistic approach I adopted made me also rethink my career path. Having reflected upon what I truly enjoy doing and what I am good at, I made some decisions regarding the future of my professional life. I considered a variety of options, carefully sieved them through and made up my mind. As a result, I set up a few goals, signed up for courses, and worked with determination towards achieving my aims. Making this decision and staying focused has paid back.

My failures as a minimalist

As you might have read in one of my earlier posts (‘Why I already failed at keeping my New Year’s resolutions’), I cannot make myself not to buy anything for a set period of time. And this wasn’t the first time I did such an experiment. On the other hand, I am a fairly reasonable consumer and most of my purchases are well-thought through, even if they seem spontaneous. I don’t know, but maybe a shopping fast just isn’t for me?

And I still struggle with the number of objects we have in the house. Even though I did some major decluttering, it still feels that we own too much of everything. It might be because once you start the process of cleaning out your space, you cannot stop. Once you realise that you can be without things, you see how many more you could get rid of. Anyway, it is still a struggle and I sometimes feel I might never be completely satisfied. I am afraid that the number of items I have will always exceed the number of items I need and use.

 

What are your successes as a minimalist? What are your challenges? Please share in the comments.

 

There will never be a better time so what are you waiting for?

A note found in Copenhagen // own photo

 

Why is it sometimes so difficult to get started with things? Why do you often keep on thinking about doing something but never actually do it? Why do we often think it is better to wait for a better time? What if this better time never comes?

There are probably a lot of things that you would like to explore, learn or do. You might be considering getting a new hobby or you might want to change your career path. You might be thinking how good it would be to learn a new skill. Or while browsing images on the internet you might be planning that one day you will redecorate your bedroom so that it will eventually resemble the one from the pictures you dreamingly look at.

Stop making excuses

But you never actually do anything, Instead, you come up with excuses or conditions. You say that you don’t have enough money to buy a new camera and so you have to put your interest in photography on hold. Or you allow yourself to start learning a new language on condition that you complete the course you are currently taking. Or you promise yourself that you will start jogging if you find a reliable jogging-mate. The thing is that if you continue thinking this way you will never do the things that you want to do.

Stop waiting for a better time

You cannot keep on waiting for the perfect time to start a new chapter of our life. What if this time never comes? So stop imagining the perfect moment and start acting because the best moment is now. Had I waited for ‘the perfect moment’ and for the time to feel 100% ready, I would have never started this blog. It was a new and unfamiliar territory that I have been exploring along the way. I have learned a lot by doing. I wouldn’t have learned a lot by waiting and reading about ‘how to’.

Take action now

Think about the future and how grateful you might be to yourself for taking the action now. Don’t postpone whatever it is you want do. Some preparation is always needed but, in my opinion, we learn best by action and by trying things out. And even if you are not successful, see it as a valuable lesson. At least you have tried your ideas out and don’t live in a ‘what-if’ land.

It is ok not to feel ready and it is ok to start things even if you don’t feel you are fully prepared. Be braver and forget about the urge to be perfect. Stop thinking ‘I wish I could’ because you can if you really want to.

 

What has been the best thing you have recently done for yourself?

 

Are you in your flow?

Varberg // own photo
Varberg // own photo

 

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I am sure that every once in a while each of us experiences a time when we are so engaged in an activity that the surrounding world does not seem to exist. We are enjoying what we are doing so much that we forget about the passing time and hours feel like seconds. This is how being in flow feels like.

What is flow?

Flow is a state of total immersion in an activity. It is also referred to as ‘being in one’s element’ or ‘being in the zone’. Flow occurs in different situations for different people. Some of us experience flow when we practise sports, some – when we use our creativity to produce a work of art, and others – when we try to solve mathematical problems. But what all these moments have in common is that we use our skills and our energy to the utmost.

When we are in a state of flow our thoughts are focused only on the current activity and we do not waste our energy on thinking about anything else. We don’t think about everyday matters and problems, and can raise above our everyday worries. What is more, we might even forget about our physiological needs; we don’t feel hunger or thirst, and going to the bathroom seems like a waste of time.

How to experience flow?

According to Mihail Csikszentmihalyi*, a psychologist who recognised and named the concept of flow, it is impossible to reach this state without putting any effort. Flow is a reward for taking initiative and for engagement. We experience flow more often when we are actively engaged, not when we spend time on passive activities. So instead of watching sports on TV we should start practising them, or instead of watching adventure films we should search for excitement in real life.

Csikszentmihalyi also thinks that there needs to be the right balance between skills and challenge. Challenge needs to be achievable yet not too easily. If there is too little challenge we soon start to feel bored and unmotivated. For example, some of us might find answering work e-mails extremely unchallenging and therefore will never be ‘in element’ when writing e-mail responses. On the other hand, if there is too much challenge, we feel anxious, frustrated and even defeated. This is how I feel when I try to solve a higher level of sudoku puzzles.

The challenge also needs to involve our skills. We might use the skills that we already have and concentrate all our knowledge and energy on a given task. Or we might expand our existing knowledge and reach another level of know-how.

Examples of flow

I am ‘in the zone’ when I write my blog posts. I really stop paying attention to time and to my needs, and am often surprised when I look at the clock. The other time when I experience flow is when I coach. I love meeting my clients, love the conversations we have, and it happens that we go overtime without even realising it. I can also totally ‘zoom out’ when preparing to coaching sessions; designing activities for my clients, searching for new coaching tools, reading articles or researching put me in my element.

People can experience flow not only when engaged in activities requiring highly developed skills but also when engaged in everyday activities. Some of us will be happiest when cooking, gardening, meeting friends or spending time with a family. Others will be in their element when writing a philosophical essay, giving a presentation at work or preparing a sales report.

What to do to be in flow more often?

If you, like me, would like to experience being in your element more often, try to engage more in activities that you are skilled for and that offer a pleasant outcome. Stay curious and be open to new experiences. Remember that flow is a reward for your engagement, creativity and attention.

If you unsure which activities give you greatest pleasure, start observing yourself. Identify the activities that make you feel accomplished and fulfilled and which give you a lot of energy. Then make sure to assign some time every day for these activities. The more often we experience moments of flow, the happier we feel. No one wants to fall into apathy.

 

When was the last time you experienced flow? What did you do? How did it feel?

 

*To find out more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of flow refer to this TED talk:

https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?

 

Inspiration #6

inspiration
Göteborg // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • Do you want to be more successful? Start working on you credibility using these five steps. Credibility can only be earned. The more credible and trustworthy you are, the more chances to be successful you have. To me, it is about wanting to become an expert and always willing to learn more.
  • If my previous post inspired you to start writing, here is some advice on how to write every day. My two favourite tips are: start small, i.e. assign 5 or 10 minutes for your first writing sessions, and embrace imperfection. You need to start somewhere!

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

The importance of writing things down

Lisbon // own photo
Lisbon // own photo

 

When do we write? Do we make use of writing in our lives?

Our writing skills develop mostly throughout primary and secondary years of schooling. We learn the first letters when we are just a few years old. It is usually our parents or kindergarten teachers who show us the letters and who teach us how to write a few familiar names. As we continue education, we learn how to build sentences, how to write coherent paragraphs, and then how to produce compositions, descriptions, essays and reports. We study the structures and practise using conjunctions and linking words to make smooth transitions between paragraphs. A few of us start diaries or journals, others try to express their feelings in poetry or songs.

As life goes on, we ditch the diaries and personal notebooks. We still write, though, now mostly ‘to-do’ and check lists, CV’s and personal letters, or reports and presentations for work. We text, write e-mails, fill in calendars with appointments, make status updates on Facebook or write captions under Instagram photos. Some of us might pick up diaries or start blogging, but, sadly, most of us tend to forget that we could use writing in many more ways.

I would like to encourage everyone to start writing. Or to start writing more if you already write.

In my teenage years I used to write diaries and short funny poems. In high school and at university there was so much writing involved that I didn’t even think of writing for pleasure. I picked up writing after a long break in January 2016 when I decided to start this blog. My original idea was to use blogging as a tool to promote myself as a coach. I did not know, though, how exciting my adventure with blogging would become. I had not idea how much I would enjoy the process of creating posts, from the moment of coming up with an idea to the laborious process of editing and polishing every sentence. I discovered a pure joy of writing, and I didn’t even know I had it in me.

Writing for self-improvement

When I look at my first posts I can see that they are rather short. The moment I started the blog I realised I wasn’t quite sure whether I could express myself clearly in writing. I had a lot of ideas but when I started to create first posts I had many doubts. Firstly, I wasn’t sure if my writing was precise and coherent enough, or whether what I wanted to write about would be found interesting. Secondly, I was not writing in my mother tongue. It was quite a struggle in the beginning, and the fear of exposing myself was adding to the anxiety. However, after some time and a lot of work I realised that I truly enjoy writing and blogging.

Yes, writing means work and it takes me hours to compose each post. And yes, I am never totally pleased with the outcome. But I can also see that my writing has improved a lot, and that my thoughts have become clearer and better organised. Hard work has been paying back!

Writing for creativity

To me, writing is like a self-propelled machinery. Once I started, I cannot stop, and the ideas keep on flowing and developing. One things leads to another, and not only do I have more ideas for the blog posts, but I also start to think of other ways to channel my writing. Writing has proven to be a fantastic outlet for my creativity, and just thinking about new posts has enabled me to explore many ideas not strictly connected to writing. I have, for example, taken a course on social media marketing and started to take more photos. All these activities allowed me to reconnect with my inner self; something I had missed since my life had changed with the arrival of my daughter.

Writing for problem solving

Writing can be a fantastic tool for brainstorming and for problem solving. When you have an issue you don’t know how to deal with, I suggest that firstly you describe your problem in writing. Then write down ideas how to solve this problem. Write down as many possible solutions as you can come up with, even unconventional or unrealistic ones. Don’t limit yourself here; often looking at unrealistic or even crazy solutions can be a source of new ideas. After you have completed your list, review all the options and choose the most satisfactory ones.

Writing for keeping goals

Each company has a vision and a mission statement. How about you? What is your personal mission statement? Do you know what your vision is? What do you aim for? I think it is important to keep a written reminder of own values to get to know yourself better. It is also a good idea to formulate your own mission statement and to review it every once in a while.

I keep my goals and my mission statement in a small notebook. I believe that writing down my goals makes me more accountable for them. Also, just taking the time to formulate my mission statement helps me define who I am. In the same way, being clear about my values helps me navigate my way through life.

Writing tools

Here is a list of writing tools that I use on a daily basis:

  • a small notebook (currently a squared pocket notebook by Moleskine) – for writing down ideas, for keeping my goals updated, for making plans, and for brainstorming,
  • Notes (an application by Apple) – for keeping shopping lists, to-do lists, to-read lists, etc.,
  • Google Keep – for writing down ideas, for drafting blog posts, and for saving links and web articles,
  • Google Docs – for drafting blog posts, for planning coaching sessions, for working on own coaching tools, and for creative writing,
  • Strides (an application by Goals LCC) – for tracking progress with achieving goals and habit change,
  • WordPress – for blogging, obviously, but also for storing well-developed drafts.

This probably isn’t a very impressive list but I like to keep things simple. And the most important thing is TO WRITE, for which all you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.

 

What is the last thing you wrote? What is the next thing you are going to write?

 

The power of habits: is what you doing today contributing to your tomorrow?

habits
Carinthia, Austria // own photo

 

Do you live consciously and are aware that even one small everyday decision might change your future? Or are you just letting your days go by? Have you ever reflected upon your daily routines? If so, what were your findings? Have you got rid of an unnecessary habit? If so, how has it improved your life?

The above questions are worth pondering about, even though the conclusions of such self-conversations might make you feel uncomfortable. If you want to be successful in life, regardless of how you define ‘success’, it is valuable to reflect upon such matters and give honest answers. Because both you and I want to be in control of our lives and not let the circumstances, habits or other people control us.

I want to live my life with full awareness therefore I often reflect on and evaluate my everyday routines. I also often ask myself: ‘Is what I am doing now going to bring me closer to achieving my goals?’

I believe in the power of everyday habits and routines. Firstly, once we develop a habit, it becomes our second nature and we don’t really need to think about it, we just do it automatically. Secondly, every little step made every day takes us closer to where we want to be – and what a great feeling that is: knowing that every day you can do something to positively affect your tomorrow!

My current habits

Here are some of the habits which I have developed over the years and which I am proud of:

  • I put things away. Also, as soon as I purchase a new item, I find a place to store it. I make sure that everyone in my family puts things where they belong, after each use. Such a system helps us avoid mess in the house.
  • I clean my closets on a regular basis which helps me live a fairly decluttered life.
  • When I was about 10 years old my Mum taught me how to crochet, knit and mend clothes. Since then I have been repairing not only my own clothes, but also my friends’ and my relatives’. Whenever the damage occurs, I repair it straight away. This habits helps me avoid unpleasant surprises, like discovering a broken zipper on a pair of trousers I want to wear when I am just about to leave the house.
  • I save up. I always have. This habit helped me, for example, to make a down payment on my house.
  • I use my commute time (about 1 – 1.5 hours every day) wisely. I either do something useful for my career (participating in webinars, taking online courses, studying and reading) or do something for my pleasure (watching films). For me, fiddling with the phone or staring out of the window is a waste of time.
  • I often think of my career and reevaluate my professional goals. I keep a document where I write what I would like to do next and which steps I need to take to get there. For me, it is very useful to have a plan like this, and I learned that writing things down helps me visualise my aims and makes me feel accountable for them. Thanks to this habits in the past 3 years I did four courses, including coaching, project management and marketing, and I am planning to learn more.

Some things I want to try

I enjoy reading about habits of successful people and here are some routines I want to try and see if they would work for me:

  • As cruel as it sounds, I want to try to get up at 5 a.m. on week days. I work full time, I commute, and I have a small child. After getting back home from work I don’t have much possibility to do anything creative on my own so this would give me an extra hour just for myself to read or to write.
  • I would like to start a journal. Maybe 5 a.m. would be the perfect time to start writing down my thoughts?

 

It is important to realise that changing habits is a process and that implementing new habits takes time. While we might not always enjoy where we are, our habits can lift us and take us to new places. On the other hand, you might be enjoying what you do today, but if I told you that you would be in the same position in 10 years’ time, would it make you feel content? Is this contentment valuable enough to last your lifetime?

 

What are your daily routines that bring you closer to your life or career goals? I will gladly read about them in the comments.

If you would like to read more about everyday routines, you can check one of my previous posts here.

 

Excess prevents us from living a meaningful life

Vrångö // own photo
Vrångö // own photo

 

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and meaningfulness? I believe that I am not the only one who often ponders about how to live a meaningful life. And while I haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer yet, I have found out that excess prevents me from living the life I want to live.

A while ago I started to declutter my house. I have found out that there is always something to get rid of and, surprisingly, I very rarely miss the things I throw away. I feel that my space is better organised and it gives my a great pleasure to be surrounded by things that I truly like and that add value to my life.

The same goes for other aspect of life. These days I am rather picky when it comes to the books I read and the films that I watch, which might not be easy with such an overwhelming choice. But I know myself quite well and I base my choices on what I truly like, and I always consider the value a book or a film can add to my life. Obviously, I count pure pleasure as one of the top values.

My social life has changed dramatically after having a child. Not having much time to meet my friends made me think about the quality of all the relationships I have had. Nowadays I prefer to spend time with people who are very dear to me. My family is the most important to me, then come some close friends. I often say ‘no’ to social gatherings because I make a choice to be with the people who I value the most. To me, excess of people in my life would distract me from being with the ones who are the most meaningful.

I have discovered that having focus is extremely important to me as this helps me to weigh options and make better choices. I am not a hedonist; I just like to feel that I live my life intentionally. I like to have a goal, or even better multiple ones in various areas. Having goals helps me steer away from any form of clutter which allows me to accomplish my aims sooner.

 

What is your excess? What prevents you from living a more intentional and more meaningful life?

 

Inspiration #2

Sunset // own photo
Sunset over Göteborg // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

Do not forget to check my previous post with inspiration:

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

Inspiration #1

inspiration
Winter walk in Hovås // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • An interesting article on things we can live without. The author mentions eight categories of items which do not seem necessary. I could not agree with her more! And I can proudly say that so far I have got rid of all of my CD’s and a lot of my books, and I am inspired to keep on decluttering.

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.