Young People Ask . . .
“Why Can’t I Finish What I Start?”
“If the task is dull and boring, I just lose my patience.”
“Distractions. That’s my problem. Television, friends.”
“Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with too many things to do!”
“I always seem to leave things for the last minute. Then, it is too late.”
“I do finish what I start. But it never seems to be good enough for my parents!”
THESE teenagers explain a problem common during youth: not finishing what they start. Not that all youths are lazy or have a bad attitude toward responsibilities. Indeed, when one group of young people were asked: “Which chores do you think teenagers should do around the house?” the majority listed such chores as keeping their rooms neat, making their beds, and taking out the trash.
Good intentions notwithstanding, important tasks are often left unfinished, resulting in frequent complaints from parents, teachers, and others. So ask yourself: ‘What prevents me from finishing what I start?’ A good look at the causes will enable you to correct the problem.
A Good Look at the Causes
The book I Hate School—How to Hang In and When to Drop Out gives us a good idea of what distracts many youths from finishing their school homework. “When we sit down to write, we often find that we keep getting up to get something to eat or to sharpen pencils. Then we have to make a phone call or maybe watch a TV show we’ve been waiting for. Pretty soon it’s time to feed the cat and we haven’t gotten anything done.”
Researchers Claudine G. Wirths and Mary Bowman-Kruhm stated that “long hours of watching TV make it almost impossible for some people to actively read and study afterwards. There is a kind of hypnosis in TV that leaves you groggy and sleepy. You know yourself you sometimes end up being plugged into the screen for a couple of hours when you only meant to watch one show.” Wirths and Bowman-Kruhm also found that some students adopt poor study habits during their early school years, though for a while they are still able to get good grades. However, “when they get to junior high and high school, they don’t really know how to make themselves sit down, get to work, and learn hard or boring stuff.”
Whatever your reason for not finishing what you start, the problem will not go away by itself. If you really want to finish what you start, then take charge of your life in a responsible way and make the necessary adjustments.
If you are a Christian youth, no doubt you are busy. (1 Corinthians 15:58) Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed with Christian responsibilities, homework, household chores, and personal projects. Of course, no one has more to do than our Creator. Yet, he always brings projects to completion. This is not simply because he is far superior to us in power and wisdom but also because he is “a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” You too can bring your projects to completion by letting “all things take place decently and by arrangement.”—1 Corinthians 14:33, 40.
Jesus once said: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build but was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28-30.
The lesson here is to plan ahead. Dr. Janet G. Woititz wrote: “People who carry projects through to completion don’t do it casually. They have what we call a ‘game plan.’” So try taking a realistic look at your tasks to understand exactly what it will take to complete them. Do you need to lay out a step-by-step plan? Would it be helpful to break up the project into smaller parts? How long will it take to complete it?
Some people like keeping a “things to do” list, with tasks written down in order of importance. Then the projects are crossed off as they are finished. To fight a tendency to procrastinate, learn to manage your time. If you are working with deadlines, be sure to place those projects at the top of your list in deadline order.
Sensible time-management is crucial. On the one hand, you want to set time limits for less important activities, such as TV watching. On the other hand, you must be careful not to curtail the essentials, such as getting proper sleep. The book I Hate School notes that people “vary in the amount of sleep they need, but most people can’t get by on four or five hours a night. . . . It is very hard to concentrate on difficult ideas if you are sleepy and tired.” Learning to use your time wisely will prove beneficial for years to come.
Keep Seeking the Advantage of Others
Some youths will claim, however, that good time-management and personal organization seem of little value when the tasks at hand are dull and boring. Applying the Bible counsel of 1 Corinthians 10:24 will help you develop the needed motivation. It says: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” Perhaps very few household chores are in themselves challenging or satisfying. But when you do them to help or please a loved one, then there is accomplishment and a desire to do them well. So next time you find yourself ready to drop a project, think of those who are benefiting from what you do, and take pride in performing quality work.
Often you also benefit from seemingly unpleasant tasks. For example, think of a task you often leave unfinished. Is it doing the dishes? Or cleaning your room? Now ask yourself, ‘Whose dishes are they anyway?’ Aren’t they your dishes also? Isn’t it your room and your home? Your willingness to accept these responsibilities and to discharge them fully will also benefit you in the future. Addressing parents, the book Simply Organized! says: “If we do not teach our children to be home managers, they will operate with a tremendous handicap when they leave home.”
What, though, if you work very hard to finish a task, but your parents still complain that you really haven’t completed it? Often the problem is one of communication. For example, let’s say you are assigned to take out the trash. That sounds simple enough. Still, it is wise to get specific instructions. Make sure you know how, when, and where. Does the job include separating the trash? Does it include rinsing the garbage containers?
Good communication will also help your parents understand how you feel. Do you think that the distribution of chores is unfair? Do you find yourself overwhelmed by your parents’ expectations? Then find a good time, and tell your parents how you feel.
Some parents invite their children to share in the decision-making process when household work assignments are distributed. Dr. Jeffrey Rubin and Dr. Carol Rubin, authors of the book When Families Fight, advise parents to have ongoing discussions about family chores, to divide up the responsibilities, and to let children choose their own chores. If you like this approach, why not suggest it to your parents?
One source recommends that you sit down with your parents and “work out a plan that lets you do homework at a time you are at your best. Everybody has a time of day or night when they concentrate better. . . . Let people know that is your time and they should leave you alone. If you don’t use that time for watching TV or talking on the phone, they will know you are serious.” By calmly discussing these matters with your parents without accusing anyone, you may be able to work out an arrangement agreeable to all.
But remember, ultimately it is your desire to please the Creator, Jehovah God, that will bring you happiness and a good name. The Bible says: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward.” (Colossians 3:23, 24) Follow this counsel and enjoy a reputation as a diligent, responsible worker because you finish what you start!
[Picture on page 24]
To start a project is one thing, to finish it is another