How Enthusiasm Was Sabotaging My Productivity

can enthusiasm sabotage your productivity?

Ever had one of those painful “Ah Ha” moments? You know the kind where you suddenly realize something about yourself that makes you feel like a complete bonehead. Not because that “something” is such a bad thing, but because you never really saw how it was affecting your life.

Well, I just had one of those. I just saw plainly how my own enthusiasm was actually having a negative impact on my level of productivity. Ouch! So now I am publicly blowing the whistle on myself to create some accountability. Why? Because now that I know that there’s a problem, it’s time to do something about it.

Self-sabotaging behavior from enthusiasm?

Here are a few things about me that you may or may not know:

1) I’m a person who takes action when something excites me.
2) I am constantly learning and implementing new information.
3) I have zero limiting beliefs about what I am capable of.

In other words, I am full of enthusiasm! But here’s the problem, I am a starter! That means that I like to take a new concept, break it down into actionable steps, and then take action on what I’ve learned. When something else comes along that gets my enthusiasm going, I do the same thing again.

Do you see the problem? I am always starting new projects before I finish whatever I was working on before. I have so many half finished projects that it’s ridiculous. So, in a very real way,my  enthusiasm and those three positive traits I listed above are having a negative impact on my productivity.

Undisciplined enthusiasm can sabotage your productivity

Enthusiasm is a wonderful trait, and I’m blessed with massive amounts. In fact, when it comes to enthusiasm for new projects, maybe I have a little too much. Let’s face it, if we fail to see our projects through to completion, we will never realize the reward for our hard work. We end up just spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere.

Now that I am aware of how this tendency has been undermining my productivity, it’s time to take some decisive action and turn things around. Here are some of the strategies I plan to use to accomplish that.

7 action steps to help me finish what I’ve started.

1) Be more task oriented. This means focusing on the task at hand until it is completed. Every “start” needs to have a corresponding “finish.” Instead of just seeing the phases of a project, it’s important to see the whole project. Starting is a phase, but it’s not the whole project. Instead of applying my enthusiasm to starting something new, I will apply it to each successive phase of my current project.

2) Define each step ahead of time. Knowing what steps are required defines where we are going. There will always be some unanticipated twists along the way, but we don’t want to get something half done and then stall because we failed to analyze what’s involved. A plan of action needs to be well thought out ahead of time. This gives us a logical sequence to follow so we can move steadily toward completion.

3) Treat each phase like a small project. Once we know what is required, then each step should receive our enthusiasm and focused attention. We still need to be mindful of the big picture, but each phase of the project will go much faster if we give it the focus it deserves. If we follow our already established “logical sequence,” it will lead us to completion.

4) Use applied focus sessions. This is the best way I know to keep my eye on the ball while it’s still in play. Applied focus sessions allow anyone to accomplish much more in a shorter amount of time because they eliminate distractions. When we get distracted, even for a moment, it takes several minutes to regain our focus. Distractions, large or small, kill productivity.

5) Ignore the lure of new ideas. For me, if something comes along that sounds irresistible, I will just make a note to check it out later. That means forget about it until after I complete whatever it is I am working. This is where I let myself get sidetracked, so for me personally, there can be no compromise here and no shift of enthusiasm or attention.

6) Limit my focus. Let’s face it; we all have other things besides new projects that require regular attention. For most people, life is pretty full without adding anything to the mix. That means there is a need to be economical with our time. It may be possible to find more time by eliminating a few time wasters, but that only works to a point. It would be counterproductive to take on new projects at the expense of necessary commitments.

7) Value completion. On some level, I must be attaching more value to starting projects than to finishing them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in this situation. It likely stems from the fact that I just like to take things from the conceptual stage to the action stage. Like I said, I’m a starter, but now it’s time to become a finisher. Learning to attach more enthusiasm to completion is certainly a good place to begin.

What can you learn from my undisciplined enthusiasm?

It is entirely possible for any of us to sabotage our own efforts without harboring any limiting beliefs. Sometimes it just comes down to the process. If we are constantly getting derailed between point A and point B, something is out of adjustment. Our habits and our daily rituals have a powerful influence on our productivity and thankfully, they are some of the easiest things to adjust.

A small change in the way we manage our focus can have a dramatic and lasting effect on our quality of life. In a very practical way, knowing this gives you an enormous amount of creative control over your personal reality. Putting these 7 action steps down in writing has empowered me to quickly begin creating even better results for my efforts.

How about you? Can you see any area in your life where a simple shift in focus, energy, or enthusiasm could lead to a significant improvement in productivity? If so, why not get the ball rolling be leaving a comment and creating some accountability? It worked for me and it can also work for you.

What distractions interfere with your productivity?
Are you able to maintain your enthusiasm from start to finish?
The lines are open!


  1. Hulbert February 18, 2010 Reply

    Great post Johnathan. I can relate to your problem because I would go through the same type of experience. I used think enthusiasm was great, and I love that feeling. But I realized that if you can’t control enthusiasm, it only becomes a “high emotion” that you feel momentarily, before it passes by.

    I totally agree with your steps that you’ve provided for us. I think whenever we get an idea that makes us enthusiastic, we shouldn’t let that feeling go away. For example, in Rocky IV, before Rocky heads out to fight his greatest challenge, the coach tells him that he needs to be able to control the fire that is burning inside of him to defeat his opponent and succeed.

    I think it’s the same way with enthusiasm. When the feeling arises within us, we need to capture it right away and put it to good use by focusing on the idea that we have in mind and taking action until it is completed.

    • Jonathan February 18, 2010 Reply

      Hi Hulbert, for some of us, I think it can be challenging to restrict our efforts to where they can do the most good. But that’s what needs to happen, at least for me anyway. When it comes to learning, I tend to be like a kid in a candy store; I want it all. So I just need to learn to take it one bite at a time.

  2. Steven Aitchison February 18, 2010 Reply

    Totally and absolutely understand what you are talking about Jonathan. That is why I am selling off all my old websites, affiliate marketing stuff and anything else I was doing over the last few years. Now I am concentrating on the blog and writing and it’s amazing the benefits that this has brought.

    I have been like yourself for the last 3 years and it was only last year that I realised I was self sabotaging my success.

    Loved this Jonathan I was with you every word.

    • Jonathan February 18, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve, there’s a lot of power in the concept of simplify and focus. Guess that’s what Leo (zenhabits) has been telling us for years. You are a good example of the benefits of this approach, look at the changes in the last six months. Impressive!

  3. Steve February 18, 2010 Reply

    Been there, done that, doing that! :) I think there is a stage in which this is helpful. For example, when a person sets their mind to being wealthy or successful, they can end up researching a lot of ideas. Starting work on many projects can help them find what works and what does not. But…..at some point, one has to slow down and focus. I feel like this post describes me from 2 years ago to a ‘T’ Fortunately, I have had some positive failures along the way, and I am now focusing a lot better. Thanks for the great info!

    • Jonathan February 18, 2010 Reply

      Hey Steve, maybe it’s a refining process we naturally go through. Seems to be a recurring theme for many of us. For me, it really is time to focus. I’ve already got enough going on to keep me busy for… Well, until it’s done!

      • Ching Ya February 26, 2010 Reply

        Indeed. We are exposed to too much ideas, finding methods to help us success all the time. I agree with Steve ‘to slow down and focus’ — a must to eliminate unwanted distractions.

        Social/Blogging Tracker

  4. ZuzannaM February 18, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan,

    Wonderful article and certainly can relate to what you have written. It seems a happy medium approach to any tasks will be the answer to avoid self – sabotaging. Like anything else, too little or too much off, would not be good so the “7 action steps,” are truly the answer to success.

    Thank you for the lovely educational post!

    • Jonathan February 19, 2010 Reply

      Hi Zuzanna, so right. The interesting thing about balance is that it requires constant adjustment. It’s those subtle shifts that keep us from falling. Sometimes it even requires a little more than subtle. This is one of those times for me.

  5. Mike King February 18, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, thanks for revealing this discovery (or limiting action) about yourself. Your question of what I learned from this mistake though leads me to respond that I am actually quite surprised you have not found this many many times before in your life. I’ve learned the hard way myself about that, and what I have learned is that personal development and all the items we provide advice in and tips, all work for only a limited set of individuals. Its funny that way, in fact, its personal. Oh, what a concept you’re thinking right, personal development being personal? But seriously, what works for some doesn’t work for others, what works in some cases, doesn’t work for others and what learn from from some things, others learn different things. What a wonderful way to explore life. Unique. So much for teaching personal development I guess… wink;

    • Jonathan February 19, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike, like so many life lessons, this one has visited me before. It’s a tendency I have when I am really passionate about something. Even when I get a handle on it in one area of life, it has a way of sneaking up on me in another.

      I totally agree that personal development is exactly that, personal. However, what works for some will usually work for many with a little personalization.

      I like to think in terms of teaching PD principals. A principal requires each individual to make application according to their own needs and circumstances. Oddly, many people are looking for rules because they don’t require any thinking, where as, principals do.

      Thanks for the neurological stimulation my friend.

  6. Gail @ A Flourishing Life February 18, 2010 Reply

    Very timely article for me also, Jonathan, as I have been contemplating exactly the issues you describe.

    I am in the process of deeply investigating the moments when I feel the urge to drop a project and move on to something more exciting. I don’t know the answer yet, but I wonder if I get bored, if I get scared (of success, of continuity), or if I hit a lull and (mistakenly) assume the project has run its course.

    For me, I think if I know why I have been moving on, it will help me find the perseverance to see something all the way through.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2010 Reply

      Some interesting choices Gail.

      I also think that understanding the why is a vital step in altering certain traits. For me, it’s just a case of wandering focus and a gusto for stimulation. Sounds like bored on some level, doesn’t it? I’ll give that some thought.

      “Something more exciting’ also seems to have application here. Why is new more exciting? I am going to anchor “completion ” in “exciting” and see how that works out.

      Your thoughts and articles are always so insightful. Thank you!

  7. El Capitan February 18, 2010 Reply

    There was a song by Van Halen that reminds me of the message behind this story:

    “C’mon baby finish what you started.”

    • Jonathan February 19, 2010 Reply

      Don’t know the song, but the message is coming through loud and clear!

  8. Lana February 19, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, you can’t imagine how much I resonated with this post! I have tons of unfinished projects. I am learning to apply applied focus sessions to as many areas as possible and hopefully that will help. Thank for other great tips too, I definitely needed them.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lana, guess I never imagined that so many others would resonate with this article. It seems to be a much more common situation than I thought. Perhaps it applies mostly to productive people with a strong passion for growth. Whatever the case, using applied focus sessions will help us get a lot of more completed.

  9. Nea February 21, 2010 Reply

    What a great post. The tips for staying focused are exceptional.
    I understand what its like to be a starter because I’ve been guilty of the same in many cases.
    But I’m okay with it as long as I’m in alignment with the #1 goal for my life…. to experience joy. If working on project A and then skipping to project B brings me joy… I’m on track.
    I know that sounds crazy–to be okay with not finishing what you’ve started. But crazy works for me too. As long as I’m skipping along with this big, silly smile on my face, all is well.
    And as for you Jonathan… With or without unfinished projects, I think you’re absolutely awesome.

  10. Doug Cartwright March 18, 2010 Reply

    Argggh! I recognise myself in this as the perpetual starter… Now I’m off for several hours of obsessive self-coaching!! Great post.

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