Don't Leave Things Unfinished

Don't Leave Things Unfinished
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 13 October, 2022

If you leave things unfinished, it’s more than just carelessness, something to take lightly. From a psychological point of view, it is a symptom that you shouldn’t overlook. This is especially true when it isn’t just an occasional occurrence, but happens repeatedly. 

When you leave things unfinished, anxiety tends to build up. Each item on your to-do list that you do halfway is an incomplete cycle. When a cycle is incomplete, it hangs over your head even if you don’t realize it.

You feel the emotional burden of disorder, though you might not be able to concretely identify it. You may also feel a sort of dull anxiety that crops up when you aren’t expecting it. In short, you don’t feel good.

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”

― William James –

There are many reasons people leave something unfinished. Sometimes you leave something unfinished because of external circumstances. However, most of the time it has something to do with you and your handle on the situation. You don’t finish the task because something gets in the way. You’re trying to avoid a reality or situation for some reason. Let’s delve a little deeper into this idea.

Reasons you leave things unfinished

In our lives we have both big and small goals as well as big and small tasks. What happens with people who don’t complete things is that there is some kind of disconnect between goals and tasks. They have every intention of doing something, but that doesn’t translate to concrete action to make it happen.

When you leave things unfinished you get anxious.

There are a lot of different possible causes. However, there are a few in particular that are especially relevant. They are:

  • Low self-esteemWhen you don’t have enough self-love, you think that the things you do aren’t valuable. You feel like it doesn’t make any difference if you do it or not. You have the perception that quitting halfway through a task doesn’t make any difference.
  • Feeling of failureThis takes the form of being unable to define the “what for.” It’s like you already lost, and no effort is worth it. It is actually one element in depression.
  • Feeling of uselessness. Some people think that it’s better to leave things unfinished because it will probably turn out bad anyway. They are afraid of the results. Consequently, they avoid facing their own limitations, whether real or imaginary.
  • Distraction. This happens when there are things that completely absorb your attention, interest, or available mental energy. As a result, you don’t have anything left for any other tasks. And if you do something else, you do it halfway.
  • Being overloaded. When you have more commitments than time to do them, usually you end up doing everything halfway.

What happens when you things unfinished

As you can see, leaving things unfinished has a lot of negative consequences. Basically, it gives you a sense of anxiety that may grow and become quite invasive. And of course it also ends up undermining your self-esteem and self-worth.

A big stone head in the ocean.

The main consequences of leaving things unfinished are:

  • Constant stress.
  • Feeling of stagnation. It’s like you are always in the same place and you can’t more forward. You can’t ever check off any to-do’s to move on to the next one.
  • It affects productivity. It would be very difficult to reach important goals if you do things halfway. It makes you inefficient and waste energy.
  • Your attention becomes dispersed. When you don’t complete a task, your mind ends up occupied with too many things at the same time. You think about the things you still have to do and the time you have left to do it.
  • It keeps you from starting new projects. You know you haven’t finished what you already started, so you don’t feel free to start something new.

How can you fix this problem?

If you leave things unfinished, you’ll have to attack the issue on two different levels. The first is related to breaking the habit. It starts out as a somewhat unconscious action and ends up a habit.

What you should do is carry out three basic actions.

  • Make realistic plans. Set goals that are actually attainable. 
  • Divide the tasks into steps and challenge yourself to finish them, one by one.
  • Learn how to take active pauses. These are limited moments of rest so that you can recover your strength and keep moving forward.
A train passing in the night.

You also have to solve the problem on another level. The second level is deeper. It’s possible that you’re doing something you hate and you feel trapped. Perhaps you are paralyzed by a feeling of incompetence. It’s also possible that it’s depression in the making. Whatever the cause may be, make an effort to get to the bottom of it.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.