On Unfinished Projects

Do you remember the 7-day New York Times challenge I started a little while back? The one I was all excited about but then dropped out of after a few days?

Yeah, that one.

Let’s be honest: I feel bad about not finishing that. It was something I was excited about, something I’d committed to publicly, and I’m more than a little disappointed in myself for not following through.

But do you know what would be even more helpful that beating myself up over my failure? Learning from it. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who sometimes (or maybe a lot of times) starts things and then doesn’t manage to finish them—even when I was excited about them and looking forward to doing them.

Why do we do that? Why don’t we finish what we start? The obvious answer is that you might not be all that excited about the project, in which case you should do your best to just let it go.

But if you are passionate about your project, there must be another reason why you haven’t managed to finish it yet. Here are three reasons your projects (and mine) aren’t getting done:

1. It’s not the right time.

When I started the Be a Better Reader Challenge, I was in the final days of my trip to Nicaragua. I traveled back to the States during the time I was planning to complete the challenge.

Y’all. International travel and time-intensive projects don’t play well together. It would have been a better idea to wait and do the challenge after I was done with my summer travels.

2. It’s not the right pace.

Some of the prompts in the Be a Better Reader Challenge are relatively easy—like “Choose a Book” on Day 1. Others (I’m looking at you, “Read Deeply”) might demand a greater time commitment and quite a bit more effort.

If I were just reading through the challenge on my own, I might be able to finish it in 7 days. But I’m blogging through it, and writing a blog post about reading deeply takes a lot more time than just looking up a few words in the dictionary.

There’s nothing wrong with doing things slowly—even when other people are taking less time than you to complete the same project. I would have been more successful with the challenge if I had (a) given myself permission to take longer than 7 days and (b) not tried to do it on weekends, which I usually reserve for family commitments and rest.

3. You don’t have a plan.

If you’ve picked the right time and the right pace for a project and you’re STILL struggling to complete it, there’s a possibility you haven’t actually made a plan to complete it.

That’s always been my issue with getting blog posts up on time. I set a reasonable goal for how often I want to post per week, but I don’t pick a time slot during the week when I plan to actually write those posts. I don’t set deadlines BEFORE the actual deadline of when I want the post published to make sure I get all the steps done in time.

If you want to finish a project—especially one with multiple steps to it, like a reading challenge—you HAVE to make a plan.

So what comes next?

I’m still intrigued by the Be a Better Reader Challenge, and I still want to work through it with all of you. This time, though, I want to finish, so here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Pick the right time. I’m not starting this week or next—the beginning of the school year is way too busy for me. I plan to start on September 16th, a week from Monday.
  2. Pick the right pace. Doing the challenge in 7 days feels overwhelming to me. Instead, I’m going to take two days to complete each day of the challenge. Also, I’m taking weekends off.
  3. Make a plan. I spent 5 minutes with my planner today and blocked off time to work on the reading challenge in the upcoming weeks. A little bit of forethought goes a long way!

If you’re interested in doing the Be a Better Reader Challenge—especially if you’re interested in moving a little more slowly through it—I invite you to join me on the 16th. You can sign up for the challenge here. If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get an email reminder the day before I start and a couple of times a week during the challenge. I’ll also be posting every day on my Facebook page; I’d love to see you in the comments over there throughout the challenge!

What projects have you started and then not finished? Why do your projects remain unfinished? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Madeleine Cain said:

    Hey Amy! I don’t know if you remember me, but I just wanted to say I’ve been enjoying following your blog 🙂 Hope you are doing well!

    September 7, 2019
    • Amy said:

      Hi Madeleine! I definitely remember you 🙂 Hope you’re doing well also! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying my blog. Thank you for commenting!

      September 21, 2019

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