67 – “Finish” — PAO: Mr. Perfect cutting food in a kitchen with an invisible cloak on

We’re continuing on with the episodes about Jon Acuff’s books, this week’s book of the week is “Finish”. It’s filled with different approaches to help you finish what you start. Your brain will get really creative in finding ways to not finish things, so I think it’s good to expand your toolbox against Resistance. Some of the strategies here: make your goal smaller, make it fun, re-frame the rules in your head.


  1. Jon Acuff: “Finish” — Our book of the week.
  2. Jon Acuff: “Do Over” — Mentioned one of Jon Acuff’s other books. We’ll talk about this in a future episode. One of my favorites to put on if I need a little boost of motivation in the day to day.
  3. BJ Fogg: Floss one tooth (video) — We talk about cutting your goals down and the “floss one tooth” idea.

Some quotes from the book that we mention on the episode and some additional thoughts.


  • I’m good at starting, bad at finishing. I don’t usually have writer’s block, but I certainly have finisher’s block. By that, I mean that I’m able to outline and outline and outline a bunch of ideas. And even get to drafts of things. But then actually finishing the thing and releasing it becomes a challenge.
  • We discuss hiding places and noble obstacles. Wally talks about how he can get caught up editing a certain point of a video. But we also discuss that video editing work for a client deserves perfectionism more than something like a blog post does.
  • Picking between good and bad is easy, between good and good is hard. This is where it’s a noble obstacle. If I want to finish editing and scheduling this podcast, I need to edit and finish these notes. That’d be good. But I’m tempted to just leave and head to the gym, because that’s also good. And it also gets me away from the resistance I feel toward finishing these notes.
  • One tip to finish: set a timer. We don’t talk about this tip specifically, but it’s what I’m using to cut the goal down to something that can be finished.
  • I create a memory palace room to remember some of the tips: Mr. Perfect cutting food in a kitchen with an invisible cloak on

Two types of obstacles: Both bad, but one disguises itself as good

“But more than just analysis, perfectionism offers us two distinct distractions: Hiding places Noble obstacles A hiding place is an activity you focus on instead of your goal. A noble obstacle is a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish. Both are toxic to your ability to finish.”

  • You’re probably aware of your main procrastination outlets. These are your hiding places. I like “hiding places” as a way to describe them, because of the connection between “place” and environment. The phrase acts as a reminder that changing your environment and removing the hiding place entirely is going to be one of the most effective ways to avoid it.
  • Noble obstacles are more difficult because you might not be aware of them at all. They are good things for you. But not in the context of finishing the current project you’re working on. Hitting the gym it’s probably a good idea overall. If you’re trying to finish writing a draft of an article, then heading to the gym right after you sit down to write probably means it’s a noble obstacle. The reverse is true as well. Let’s say you plan to work out in the morning. But you start writing in the gym lobby right when you get there, then writing is now the noble obstacle.

Hiding places

“If you’re watching Netflix every time it’s time for you to do X, that’s a hiding place. You’re afraid to face the fear of imperfection that comes along with every endeavor, so you’re hiding from it by doing something that requires no skill.”

  • As mentioned above, changing your environment is the best way to avoid hiding places. You’re aware of the hiding places, but you can build even more awareness. There are probably a few things surrounding the hiding place, pulling you in to enter. Sometimes it’s not even all that tempting, but you just mindlessly wander in. These are the cues in a habit loop.
  • It’s also important to realize that you’re carrying around a hiding place. Not only that, your phone is a hiding place with many many many (many) more hiding places. Find ways to improve your digital environment.


“developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor in turning chronic starters into consistent finishers.”

  • Learn to lower your bar. Consider how much time will go into perfecting whatever it is you’re working on. If it leads to you not finishing it at all, that’s a sign that you probably want to lower the bar. This is where I could be good too start with a time boxed input goal. You’re going to spend one hour on something and whatever you have by the end of that will be good enough. (Remember: A lot of times, good enough is good enough.)
  • Don’t lower it too much, though. I think “floss one tooth” is good because you’d never really actually just floss one tooth. On the other hand, you can swing too far the other way on the imperfection scale. And I’m definitely talking about myself here: I’ve put things quarter-baked things out into the world that I should’ve taken just a little more time with. Instead of lowering the bar of what_finished_ means, I became okay with publishing things that just weren’t really finished at all. Bad analogy: If you’re serving up burgers, it’s the difference between serving an okay burger and serving up a burger but forgetting the patty.

Also check out our previous episode about “Quitter”! (One of Jon Acuff’s other books.)