How to Keep From Starting Too Many Projects (and Actually Finish The Ones You Do)

Is this you?

Your brain is constantly coming up with new ideas.

A steady tsunami of project ideas for blog posts, e-commerce stores, video courses, startups, and side hustles.

And you usually try to do all of them at once?

Me too.

I have no problems coming up with ideas.

No problems what so ever to start implementing them.

But I have a LOT of trouble finishing anything.

It usually goes something like this:

”Eureka! I shall start manufacturing and selling theft-proof dog leashes!”

2 minutes later, I’ve purchased DontStealMyDawg.com and are installing WordPress on it.

Then I spend the rest of the day trying to find the perfect theme (doesn’t exist) plus trying to get in touch with some Chinese manufacturers (always a very big cultural gap).

The next day, I’ve realized it is completely overwhelming and I have given up and are on to the next project.

This has been my life for decades. And feeling like I’m not actually producing anything of value started to get kinda old a while back.

But not too long ago, I decided to fix this.

I wanted to set up a system that would:

  • Let me save all my project ideas
  • Find out which ones that are actually worth pursuing
  • Keep me from starting too many at once
  • Actually finish the ones I’ve started

I ended up with a very simple, but extremely efficient system, that I would like to share with you.

Before you start

I use an app called Notion for my system. It is very powerful app letting you write, make to-dos and even use databases to store and sort your information.

Try it out if you want (and have the time) but you really don’t have you use it.

If you can use an app already in your arsenal, that’s much better. No need to learn a new one. 

This system would work perfectly fine, using all analog tools. Like pieces of paper.

Let me explain this simple system, and you can decide on the technicalities later.

What is a “project”?

For us to be on the same page, let me just quickly describe how I define a “project”.

For me, a project is basically anything with determined content and a clear beginning and end.

It can be an e-course, business idea, book, an app, a pro-bono marketing job or a digital tool I want to make.

Basically anything that is not continuous stuff like creating blog posts or podcast episodes.

In short; “Set up a blog for entrepreneurs with ADHD” is a project, writing blog posts now and then is not.

The Two Parts of the System

I realized I needed two things.

A way to save all the ideas I get for new projects. 

And a way to continue working on the ones I’ve started without launching any new ones.

To do this, I created two ”lists”; The Box and The Spotlight.

The Box

Whenever I come up with a new idea for a project, I write it on its very own digital ”index card”. 

For me, the index card is a separate document in Notion, but as you probably noticed already, you could use actual index cards and an actual box if you are the analog kind of person!

This is what my Box might look like.

I give it a name (a very descriptive one, so that I quickly remember what it is about) and I record my initial ideas for this specific project.

If I already have a timeline or a list of to-dos in mind, I write them down.

I also write the estimated amount of days it would take to finish it if I were to work full time on it (the number of days I think it will take x 2).

Lastly, I find a decorative image to go with the project. 

Then, I save it in The Box (again, this could be a digital folder or an actual box).

An example of one of the projects – an e-course that will teach entrepreneurs how to get more done.

The first thing this is doing is letting me ”save” my project idea, together with all the thoughts and things that came with the idea.

This is a very powerful way to open up memory space in your brain.

When you write it down, you don’t have to use your energy to remember it. You can let it go, knowing it is safe.

The second reason for this is to create a buffer. To stop the impulse to get at it right away.  

Letting that idea marinate for a while.

This will help decide if it’s actually worth creating or just a brain fart (as with regular farts, brain farts tend to slowly fade away).

I’ve had ideas (in my head or notebook, before I started this system) for years.

I think about it when I’m on the bus, on the beach, trying to sleep.

Every project card has its own set of to-dos. If I’m on the train, day-dreaming about a specific project and come up with a concrete task, I open that document and add a to-do or a note.

I add things, I change it. And suddenly the time is right and decide to start working on it.

Letting it sit for a while is great for developing good ideas, and to fade the less good out.

The Spotlight

The second part of my system is The Spotlight.

This is where I put the projects I am working on right now.

I never have more than 3 projects ”active” at any given time.

The Spotlight. This is all I see at the top of my day-to-day management tool.

In Notion, whenever I tag a project in The Box with ”Ongoing”, it is automagically moved to my main page for managing my tasks.

The Spotlight doesn’t have to be digital

It could very well be the wall behind your computer screen, where you pin the index cards for the projects you are currently working on on a corkboard.

How to use the system

Now, the Box and The Spotlight are a system, and supposed to be used together.

The beauty of The Box, is that it will keep all your ideas safe but out of sight.

I am very easily distracted.

Like really easily.

Like, I can work on writing a blog post and suddenly remember an idea for a business I had two months ago and then I wake up 3 hours later, in the mids of Googling if I would have any significant competitors for my Famous Dictators as Garden Gnomes business.

This is why I don’t have anything on my desk, and why I keep all my ideas securely locked away in The Box. 

I don’t want anything to pull my focus away from what I am currently working on.

That is why everything in The Box is hidden in The Box.

I need to actively open it up, to look inside, and I only allow myself to do that when I need to add something to a project or when I have enough time to take on another project.

Then, it is moved to The Spotlight. This is where the projects I am currently working on lives.

I enjoy working on a few projects simultaneously. That way I get some variety, and if something is holding one project up, I can use the time to work on another.

But I never allow more than 3 projects on The Spotlight at once.

Basically, the project I am working on is right in front of my eyes (The Spotlight), and all the others are hidden away (The Box).

A few rules to keep it under control

So far so good.

Any normal person would probably be able to start using this simple system right now and be super productive.

Yeah.

I’m not one of those ”normals”…

I’ve realized that it works really good to set ”rules” for myself.

That way, I don’t have to use any decision making energy (yes, it’s a thing!) to if I should start another project.

My rules are:

– I’m only allowed 3 ”active” projects at once

– Every new project idea is put in The Box (never in The Spotlight right away)

– A project idea needs to live in The Box for at least a month before being put in The Spotlight.

As much as possible, I try to keep a project in The Spotlight until it is finished.

But sometimes I mark them as paused and the (automatically) goes back to The Box.

This works for me, I’m not cheating and yo-yoing projects back and forth.

But you need to keep an eye on yourself, to make sure you don’t misuse this 😉 

Conclusion

Creating this simple system helped me to keep on track and improved my productivity tenfold.

It became much easier (it became actually possible) to stay on track longer than a few days.

When you try it out, be aware and try to find out which parts are working for you and which parts are not.

As I mentioned before; use whatever platform that works for you.

Try it, and alter it to fit your needs.

Hyperfocused in 3 minutes

How To Go From Unproductive to Hyperfocused in 3 Minutes

I know.

It sounds like the clickbait of the decade.

But being a life-long ADHD entrepreneur – never being able to focus when I should – my life changed when I realized how efficient this is.

Read on, try it out.

If it is not working, I’ll send you a free emoji hamburger (hit me up on Twitter to claim your consolation prize)!

Breaking the life-long non-habit

I’ve always been extremely creative. My mind is a constant stream of ideas.

I have had enough ideas to launch 10 startups a day, for the last 20 years.

The problem’s never been to come up with ideas.

The problem has been to execute them.

Starting is never a problem. But even if it is just a blog post I am trying to write – it doesn’t take long before every fly, piece of lint and the passing cars are waaay more interesting than what’s on my screen.

(This is typical for us entrepreneurs blessed with ADHD, but I’m pretty sure most people have trouble focusing from time to time.)

A while ago I stumbled upon Faster Than Normal, a book for ADHD entrepreneur by Peter Shankman.

It changed my life.

In the book, I found the missing piece, that would make me able to keep going and going.

To work with focus – for a long time.

I would like to share my technique (in which I incorporated Shankmans drop-and-gimme-20-trick) on how to keep focus – regardless if you are an entrepreneur with or without ADHD!

Don’t worry – it is not rocket surgery.

Let’s do this.

Step 1: Notice the trigger

You can’t change something until you’ve noticed you are doing it.

In the beginning, half an hour of mindless surfing might go by before you realize you are not doing anything useful.

Or an hour of “I’m just gonna check what this pile of paper is all about”.

That’s ok! You will become better at noticing the more you practice.

A great way to start being more aware, is to ask yourself ”Am I being productive right now?” from time to time.

Put a post-it note on your screen with that question.

Download some cool app that will ask you at random times.

Being able to notice the trigger (surfing around, going from app to app in your phone, cleaning your desk, etc) is key.

It is how to know to launch the entire brain rescuing sequence! 

Step 2: Close your computer

The second you realize you are not doing anything productive; close your laptop. Just fold it down.

(If you are on a desktop computer, turn the screen off)

Breaking the loop is the first step if you want to regain control over your raging mind.

Just stop everything.

It is easier to start from scratch than to reduce the mess.

Step 3: Take a few deep breaths

Now, close your eyes and take a few really deep breaths. Follow the air down to your lungs.

If you’ve ever tried meditation, you know that deep breathing is one of the most important pillars.

It takes you back to now. It gives your body energy and your mind clarity.

Step 4: Understand WHY you are not being productive

For me, there are usually two main reasons why I zone out.

Either I’ve lost my ability to focus. This happens very easily thanks to me being ADHD.

Or, I don’t know exactly what I am trying to accomplish at this very moment.

Not having a clear outcome in mind, tend to make me go full zombie much easier.

And of course, it can also be a combination of the two above!

Luckily, both are very easily fixed! 

Step 5a: How to get your focus back

A lack of focus usually depends on a lack of dopamine (I’ve heard people say, I’m not a even close to a doctor), a chemical that can help improve attention and focus (especially for people with ADHD).

If this is the case, get up from your chair and walk around for a few minutes.

Then, drop to the floor and do as many push-ups as you can (deep squats work too).

Try it! I promise that you will feel an instant boost of energy and focus.

For me, it is like pushing a restart button.

My brain stops raging, and I am able to do ONE thing very focused.

Step 5b: Give yourself a target

If the problem is that you were not sure what or why you were doing what you were doing before starting to f*ck around on every page on the internet, you need to clarify it to yourself.

Whenever I’m writing a block post and get stuck, it is almost always because I didn’t clarify WHY I’m writing it.

What is the one message or lesson I want to share through this post?

The best way I usually clarify this is to write an extremely descriptive title for the post – before writing the actual post.

I know it is not the final title, so it doesn’t have to be fancy, cool or search engine optimized.

It should tell me the one thing this post should teach.

(The original title for this post was “How to get back on track when you stopped being productive”)

This works for everything, not just writing blog posts.

Tell yourself – or better; write it on a piece of paper – exactly what it is you are going to do.

What is the next to-do you need to finish?

Step 6: Start over

Now, having energy and a clear task at hand, take another deep breath.

Open up your computer again.

Close every application and every browser tab you don’t need.

And get to it! 

Conclusion

Just by noticing that you are not doing anything useful, you have the opportunity to change that.

And it is not as hard as I’ve thought the last 20 years!

I’ve been able to use this to work, non-stop for full days at the time.

That almost never happened before.

I hope it works as good for you as for me!