Matt’s Notes on Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done – by Jon Acuff

So this is the first of what I hope will be many. I have been told that I distill information pretty well. I will often tell my wife what I am learning from the books I read. So this post is my effort to do that for you. It by no means is meant to replace the book. This was a great book, and I would highly recommend picking it up and reading the whole thing. I by no means covered everything, and there were some really great thoughts in there.

So without further ado, the very first Matt’s Notes…


This book is about overcoming hurdles that prevent us from finishing our goals. It addresses a series of hurdles that are commonly encountered after starting a goal and gives ideas for walking around said hurdles instead of trying to jump over them and getting tripped up. The book focuses on perfectionism in various forms being the primary antagonist to finishing things. Key commentary: Trying harder is not the answer. Avoiding the trap of perfectionism is.

The day after perfect

The day you break a streak is the first hurdle. Perfectionism says you already failed, so why bother. And if you break promises to yourself enough times, you begin to believe that at your core you are not capable of finishing. Need to punch the perfectionism lie in the face: “Quit if it isn’t perfect.” Developing comfort with imperfection is the key to finishing.

Cut your goal in half

Supersizing goals is a quick path to failure. It makes the task too daunting and detracts from small successes. Solution is to cut goals in half, or double the timeline for goals that can’t be halved. Some goals won’t work for either, such as goals for work. For these, it is more critical to make sure the goal is appropriate to begin with. When you halve a goal, don’t give in to the temptation to also halve the timeline.

Choose what to bomb

Be proactive about what you decide to suck at while you work on your goal. Your resources and time are limited. Saying yes to one important thing means making sacrifices elsewhere. Be intentional about what you choose to let go, which will help you not feel ashamed of the things you aren’t keeping up on.

Make it fun if you want it done

Pick goals that are fun. If a goal isn’t fun (and some really aren’t), augment them with other things that are fun. Use either rewards or fear to motivate (whichever you feel works best for you). Rewards like things you enjoy that you only allow yourself to enjoy while working on the goal, or fear of something like a deadline you give yourself. Some satisfaction comes from finishing, but the most critical is the satisfaction you get along the way.

Leave your hiding places and ignore noble obstacles

Hiding places are things that you work on that are easier than your goal, but do not move you towards your goal. They are also safer and lower risk. Sometimes new goals can be hiding places. Redirecting excitement about a new goal to finish a current goal can help. Make starting on the new goal contingent on finishing the old. Noble obstacles are secondary criteria that finishing a goal becomes contingent upon. Such as not throwing away a broken vacuum because you want to recycle it. It is a noble intent, but complicates the goal to the point where it never gets done. Ask yourself if you could make a goal easier or simpler.

Get rid of your secret rules

Small lies that we don’t even notice that play into our perfectionism. I believed that I couldn’t be a writer if I hadn’t published a novel. That’s not what “writer” means. Flush out the rules, then understand why they are lies, then replace them with truths. I want to be a writer. Writers write. If someday I want to be a novelist, I will work on a novel.

Use data to celebrate your imperfect progress

Emotions are an unreliable source of information about progress. Data does not lie about progress. First step is logging the data. Need to determine a metric for your goal, then track it. Then review the progress and determine if any aspects of the goal need to change (goal, timeline, action). Then take immediate action to make changes if necessary.

The day before done

Don’t give up right before the end. This usually takes the form of being afraid of the implications (criticism of work), fear that it won’t be perfect, or fear of “what now?”. If you struggle with this, the best way is to talk to a friend. Friends are helpful to see around these forms of fear and push us past this final hurdle. Also can help to ask yourself what you are get out of not finishing that is better than finishing.

Matt’s takeaways:

  • If I want to write, I need to get comfortable with sharing things I deem imperfect.
  • I believe about myself that I don’t have what it takes to be a finisher because I have broken goals too many times. Writing out data regarding things I have finished or not was very insightful in this area.
  • It is important for me to choose things to not be good at in order to write (video games, latest movies/shows, news)
  • I had several secret rules about being a writer were boldfaced lies. I had to recognize them and move past them by replacing them with truths.



3 thoughts on “Matt’s Notes on Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done – by Jon Acuff

  1. This is very insightful and sparks new thoughts for me. I need to integrate these ideas into how I pursue goals. Thanks for sharing!


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