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Confession time. Motivation to complete a project seems to ebb and flow for me. I wish I could complete a project start to finish without getting lazy halfway through and leaving my primary bathroom with two newly painted doors that haven’t yet been hung back on their hinges. I wish it weren’t so easy for me to give myself excuses not to do something right now and put it off until later.

My bathroom – as it was last week, and as it is today.

I often sit at work and look forward to going home, picking up where I left off… and then I get derailed. I wind up working late, getting stuck in traffic, and/or being too exhausted by the time I get home to pick up the paint brush like I thought I would. I think to myself (as I shamefully admit to all of you), “There’s a new Jersey Shore on tonight!” and settle down into my comfy couch or bed and get the dirt on my favorite trash TV. Many times, it’s my downfall that a “break” turns into an all night vegging out. Or worse, the break is not even technically a break, since it would require doing something, then pausing from it.

But that’s the reality I live in. My own willpower (or rather a lack of it) can get in my way. I really want to get started, but have a hard time getting finished. What to do?

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t some “I’m determined to change” kind of posts. I’m merely making an irritated observation of my habits and assessing them for what they are. I can get things done, and the perfectionist in me usually means it gets done well because I’m stubborn enough not to consider it “done” until I’m 100% happy. I can also come up with excuses (in fact, I’d say I’m pretty brilliant at it… I have a stellar success rate at procrastination). I have a difficult time finishing projects around my house when there is temptation in front of me to put off the things I know I won’t enjoy.

What’s even funnier about it is that my work habits for the 9 to 5 (or rather, more like 8 to 6) are exactly the opposite. I always complete projects, always remind myself on a daily basis what needs to get done… and I do it. I Just like in my “outside” life, I make lists compulsively. I get the same satisfaction when I cross a big black line through an item on the to do list. The difference seems to be that at work, I manage to check something off daily, where in my personal life, I put off the little things because I feel like I can always fit them in later.

Maybe that’s the heart of it. I really like seeing my bathroom cabinet painted and changing so dramatically… but hate doing the finish work that I consider tedious and uninteresting. Maybe that’s why I have trim that still needs caulking and stairs that are only halfway finished painting (I stopped when I realized I would have to take a hiatus in the middle of a rainstorm because of the humidity… then the stairs got muddy so I would have to scrub them before getting back to it… then I just began a new project).

So unfortunately, my desire to get a few more things crossed off the to-do list is being postponed for the millionth time in less than a year. That’s not to say that I’m not going to push myself tonight (and especially the rest of the weekend) to get something, anything done, but sometimes I just lack the energy and desire. Which will inevitably change into a burst of energy where I do fifteen things in one blazing frenzy of activity.

That’s my pattern. I wait it out, and eventually my willingness to get the bathroom wallpaper removal started or the new light fixtures hung or a mysterious gouge in the wall repaired returns. I guess that’s why DIY-ing a home is so rewarding in the end. It’s the pride of overcoming our own obstacles (money, time, patience) and seeing something beautiful emerge from our efforts. We don’t just do it because our wallets say that we can’t afford to hire someone to do it for us; it’s also the realization that you rode every single wave and came out on the other side.

And so, I wish you all a very happy, triumphant weekend. If you are like me, I am happy to offer words of encouragement for what you do accomplish… even if it’s only halfway done by the end. If you not like me and can steamroll your way toward the finished product, you have my admiration and my permission to dismiss my rambling as merely a speed bump on your productive day. Pick up your paint brush, and get it done… for now, at least ;)

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  1. You just described me perfectly and now I feel a lot better about it! I do get things done; sometimes it just takes a while to get there. Thanks for this post.

  2. This is a daily/weekly (dare I say … monthly) occurrence for me! We seem to start projects all the time, then run out of time/money … and energy .. and they get left undone for ages. We hired a dog sitter in September last year and he saw the house in a total state of disarray. We're hiring him again for another job in a few weeks and he told us he's looking forward to seeing all the improvements we've made in the house since September. Urmmm. NONE! Yes, I say, the house is a disaster zone. Still. 6 months later. Doh!

  3. I actually make myself finish a project every month. It doesn't have to be the current one…just any project. It usually works for me…if I have a little more money that month I'll do something that costs more…if I'm poor(ish) then I'll find a way to finish something with as little cost as possible.

  4. Great tip, Jenny! I actually tried something similar to this over the weekend (I'm working on a new approach to “do this now”) with some relative success. I managed to get three very long-standing projects completed. But am I done for the month? No way. I admire your goal-setting!

  5. Oh, yeah! You have described me. :-) I just blogged about needing to finish up my bedroom. Six years and counting. Ugh.

    I found your blog looking for reviews on Rustoleum's cabinet transformations.

  6. I enjoy your page very much. I am a 70 yrs lady with the heart and mind of a younger one. Sometimes I am a teenager when I am with my grandsons others I am a hillarious old lady with lots of crazy ideas to do. I want to congratulate you.
    I live in Puerto Rico