What’s your productivity hack for powering through the last 10% of a project?

Getting across the finish line

Everyone’s had that moment

You’ve been working on a project that’s humming along really well, and you’re nearing the point where you can see the end of it… then boom!  All of a sudden everything grinds to a halt, and you run smack into a brick wall that keeps you from bringing it across the finish line. Try as you might, you can’t seem get things rolling again. Distractions become more distracting, and the excuses and justifications start to form an unsatisfying pile where you’re finished project should be.

It’s a crappy feeling. I know because I’m in the middle of one right now. It’s frustrating and doesn’t make any sense, because I’m working on building something that I’m really excited about.

I’d like to pose a question to you

You seem like smart folks, and I know I’m not alone with this problem. How do you break down that wall that’s blocking you from finishing up the last little bit of a project? What are your best productivity hacks or strategies for breaking out of a rut?

Please share in the comments!

13 Comments on “What’s your productivity hack for powering through the last 10% of a project?”

  1. Robby Macdonell says:

    One thing that seems to work is a shake up in my physical surroundings. When I can’t shift my mental space to re-focus, I try shifting my location. Quarantining yourself away from your usual workspace (and usual distractions) can give you the extra focus you need to get things moving again.

  2. Robby Macdonell says:

    This problem is also eloquently summed up by the “ninety-ninety rule”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-ninety_rule


  3. Jose Freitas says:

    I’m also in a midle of one right now! What i try is to visualyze the finished project and the satisfaction with the acomplishment, the satisfied customer. 🙂 Sounds easy.

  4. This problem looks an awful lot like a nail to me. Might I suggest this fine hammer: http://beeminder.com 🙂

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      I might be splitting hairs here, but I’ve always considered Beeminder more of an up front tool. When you’re starting a new project and you’ve got a fresh supply of motivation to put the right mechanisms in place to keep you on track. I’m curious how often people turn to it when they’re mid-stream, or even mostly through a project and they feel stuck? Not that it sounds invalid by any means. It just hadn’t occurred to me to use it like that.

      I may need to give it a shot and find out. Thanks!

  5. Jeff Risberg says:

    Long ago, I read an interview with an artist who mentioned the difficulties of finishing something. The article said that “in these circumstances he would surround himself with his own [prior] work, to aid confidence. He likes the encouraging phrase from the I Ching ‘Perseverance Furthers’.”

    This was in a book about the progressive rock artist Roger Dean, I read it in 1976, and have used that phrase and mindset ever since.

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      I love that! I can see reflecting on the prior work being motivating on a few different levels. 1. the confidence to know you *can* do what you’re working on. 2. A reminder of how good it feels to complete a project. and 3. A bit of self-competition; motivation to improve yourself in comparison to your previous efforts. Thanks!

  6. Joe says:

    I find myself falling into that 90% trap all of the time. For the times I’ve just pushed through, I found that works best for me is putting on the headphones, loading up my “Power Programming” playlist and doing battle with the last 10%.

    My playlist consists of mostly movie soundtracks with an epic battle feeling. Here a few of the tracks out of my playlist:

    Outlands – Daft Punk
    Rada – Thomas Bergersen
    Up Is Down – Hans Zimmer
    Driving With the Top Down – Ramin Djawadi
    The Last Stand – Two Steps From Hell
    The Batman Theme – Danny Elfman

    That’s just a sampling – but I find that the last 10% is a lot less daunting when I’ve got my epic battle music backing me up.

  7. netflow says:

    Caffeine and loud electronic music, usually in a Starbucks

  8. pennlio says:

    I think a useful way of making me focus again is to spend a period of time on the playground.
    Being not able to focus may remind me that I am running out of my mental fatigue so that I need some physical practices as an alternative. I think you can easily get focus again once you come back from the playground.

  9. Mark Wolgemuth says:

    I do find change of location to be very helpful– usually to a place with a lot of visual white noise, where I can lift my eyes from the screen to gaze unfocused into life passing around me while my brain churns on something.

    Also, a short walk with my camera or a sketch pad can reboot my brain with a little orthogonal exercise.

    Beer doesn’t usually help much, but sometimes I try anyways, just to see maybe THIS time it will.