Book Discussion: Finish, Part 2 – Deliberate Time Investments and Avoiding Distractions

In order to finish the goals we begin, author Jon Acuff says we need more time to work toward each goal, the motivation to keep going, and to maintain focus amidst any possible distractions perfectionism may throw at us along the way.

Based on that, what will you intentionally decide to bomb so you have more time? How will you stay motivated to accomplish your goal? And how can you avoid distractions?

In episode 273, we’re joined by guest host Jason Gass to help answer these questions based on our discussion of the following chapters from Finish by Jon Acuff:

  • Chapter 3: Choose What to Bomb
  • Chapter 4: Make It Fun if You Want It Done
  • Chapter 5: Leave Your Hiding Places and Ignore Noble Obstacles.

Original Recording Date: 04-07-2024

Topics – A Book Discussion Series, Chapter 3: Choose What to Bomb, Chapter 4: Make It Fun, Chapter 5: Leave Your Hiding Places and Ignore Noble Obstacles

A Book Discussion Series

  • This is part 2 of a book discussion series centered on Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. If you missed part 1 of our discussion, check out Episode 272.
  • In that first episode we discussed the following topics:
    • Reasons Jason Gass (our special guest host in this series) recommended the book
    • Chapter 1 – The Day after Perfect
    • Chapter 2 – Cut Your Goal in Half

2:59 – Chapter 3: Choose What to Bomb

  • The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource – time. We have to take time from one thing and give it to something else. Being good at one thing means being bad at something else. We choose what to be bad at to prioritize something we’d like to be better at.
    • Jason liked the examples Acuff uses from his own life and the lives of real people.
    • Acuff gives the example of using a specific block of time on Mondays to finish a book he was writing. His wife encouraged him to use that time.
    • For those listening who may be working toward a specific goal (taking a class or a degree, pursuing a certification, etc.), you might need to work on it while your kids are awake, and it may take time away from them. But it is intended to be temporary.
      • Jason used to enjoy mowing his yard, for example, but got tired of the time it was taking, especially in the heat of a Texas summer. He is able to pay for a mowing service and can now apply the 2 hours per week toward other goals.
    • Nick says the decision to be bad at something is really putting your time in the right place to accomplish your goal. But it also prevents you from having a mental conflict later or needing to make further decisions. It saves mental cycles.
      • Nick, for example, is choosing to bomb communicating with people a lot on weekends because he is podcasting. That’s just what he does.
      • Jason’s wife hated grocery shopping. Now they’ve invested in a meal service and only shop for the basics. This relieved a task they just didn’t want to do.
      • “There’s always something I feel in our lives that we just don’t want to do, and if we can trade or outsource so we can work on something that’s a little more energetic or more fulfilling, it’s a good handoff.” – Jason Gass
      • John stresses that these things are planned and intentional. If grocery shopping takes 90 minutes out of your week that you really don’t like spending, and a delivery service can eliminate some of that or most of it for a fixed rate, it could be a win. If grocery shopping did not get accomplished and we were forced to get unhealthy takeout that is unhealthy and goes beyond our budget, it may be the wrong tradeoff.
      • Every once in a while John will invest in fluff and fold laundry service. The tradeoff isn’t for the time spent doing the laundry but rather to avoid the time spent folding the laundry to put it away.
      • Jason would dry clean his shirts to avoid having to iron since he and his wife do not iron. He at some point moved to wrinkle free shirts.
    • Nick says the idea of choosing what to bomb is about where you will and won’t focus your time and energy. When trying to build expertise in a new area, it will require more time because you do not have the expertise (i.e. you accept you will be bad at doing the thing). So you may need to bomb something (or get rid of it) to give you the extra time.
      • John says things like television are mentioned in the book as well as other slack time in our lives. Cal Newport’s work has spoken about excessive social media usage and how it can give the dopamine hit or seem like you’re accomplishing something.
      • Jason mentioned he used to watch Breaking Bad but thought about how much time it takes to “binge watch” TV series for multiple seasons at 45 minutes per episode and has decided it’s no longer that important to him. He thinks about what else could be accomplished during that time and only watches a very small amount of tv now.
      • Jason has friends who are deep in their knowledge of music, live TV shows, or sports and spend a great deal of time in those areas. Jason has decided it’s not important to have that kind of knowledge depth.
      • Nick’s wife and daughter know he’s choosing to bomb watching television. They know just as he does that he is mesmerized by television.
      • Early in his career, Jason was not much into gaming but owned a PlayStation. He hasn’t finished many games. After realizing how much time he was spending playing, at one point he decided to spend the time working toward a certification to progress his career. Jason never finished the game he started after that.
      • “You know what…maybe this isn’t the proper use of my free time. And not to say that we can’t take for entertainment…but it gets into the point of how much time to do put toward that extracurricular activity versus one of the other goals that we really want to accomplish.” – Jason Gass
      • “Is it one of your stated goals? Because if it’s not one of your stated goals, then you are accomplishing something that is not a stated goal at the cost of something that is a stated goal….” – John White
      • If binge watching a show or finishing a video game is that important, then we should be conscious and intentional about spending the time there and let go of the shame.

13:39 – Chapter 4: Make It Fun

  • Jason started taking some entertainment activities like a tv show or movie and making it a reward. He gives the example of studying for a certification during the day and then rewarding himself with watching 1 or 2 episodes of an interesting television show.
    • “That was my reward of getting through those chapters or…doing that lab time. That became the reward or the fun side of the goal.” – Jason Gass, on rewarding himself with watching television for working on a goal
    • John feels like using rewards as suggested in this chapter definitely hit him in a positive way. Some people are reward motivated, but others are motivated by fear (i.e. fear of something happening if the goal is not accomplished). It is valid to harness what is going to help you.
    • “If you say you’re going to do this thing that’s a reward and then you have to abandon the reward, then sometimes you’re going to abandon the task. And that’s not a good thing either.” – John White
    • These categories of reward and fear motivation exist in financial planning as an example. We hear about the type of customer who wants to save money because they are looking forward to things like travel or spending time with family. We hear about others who are afraid of not having enough saved for retirement to cover medical costs, etc.
      • Both are valid drivers of you accomplishing your goal. Are you fearful of not having enough money, or are you more interested in having enough money to do fun things in retirement?
  • Nick thinks most people are not as intentional as they could be when making decisions. Many don’t think about whether fear or reward motivates them. We busy ourselves with many things and just are not that intentional.
    • John tells us his comments on intention come from cognitive behavioral therapy.
    • For example, if you’re going to watch television instead of exercising, make that decision up front. You could even say out loud that you’ve decided to watch television instead of exercising and see how you feel about it before sitting down to watch. If you feel ok about it, then let go of any shame as a result.
    • John agrees people are not intentional about setting up rewards or finding out if they are reward or fear motivated. For any given individual, they may have a mix of both fear and reward motivation.
      • An example of fear motivation is working on certain tasks because you do not want to be fired.
      • An example of reward motivation is performing tasks you don’t like first so you can then work on the things you do enjoy.
      • Nick shares a personal example of combining fear and reward motivation on accident. For a series of task deadlines, Nick had completed the tasks on the day they were due but worked into the evening to do it. When another deadline was given he felt there was no reason he could not finish by close of business on the due date. On the day before the deadline, Nick was sitting in a Starbucks and made the decision to stay 2 hours longer instead of going home to avoid any distractions when he arrived at home. That, and he loves sitting in Starbucks and drinking coffee. He hit the deadline by close of business the next day, and it made him feel great. Nick mentions this was not anything intentional until the very last minute realization. He could have been thinking about it days before when he knew he would be close to a Starbucks in the late afternoon on the day before the deadline.
  • Jason says this chapter looks at goals through the lens of fun in general.
    • Exercise is a great example. Many people think they need to go running if they want to exercise or lose weight. But if running isn’t fun, the person would likely stop running. What if we did something fun that can still help us accomplish our goals?
    • Perfectionism tells us a goal cannot be fun. That’s wrong. If playing pickleball is fun to you, for example, that’s a form of exercise that you could do instead of running.
    • Jason’s wife is a big runner and has run marathons. Jason has realized he’s not a marathon runner, but he will run a 10K. He and his wife have run 10K races at Disney World and trained together for it. But Jason’s wife wants to run half and full marathons too. Jason understands his goals don’t have to be the same as hers.
    • When we create goals, there needs to be a fun element to it.
  • Jason mentions most goal books suggest creating SMART goals.
    • This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound.
    • Jon Acuff jokes that we could use those same words to describe broccoli or cauliflower.
    • Tony Robbins adds to these and would advise we need to be reminded of the reason for the goal (or the why behind it) and the emotion tied to it.
    • Eating healthy isn’t fun. Tony Robbins would encourage us to ask “why are you doing it?”
      • Maybe someone wants to be healthy so they can travel, to remain healthy and active so they can spend time with future grandchildren, etc.
      • Jason was never someone who enjoyed going to the gym. But last year Jason began to have back problems from working a desk job and could not even put on his socks without pain. He called a friend who is a personal trainer to develop a workout program for him. Jason says it was painful at first, but the training has helped him stay healthy so he can achieve more of the things he wants in life like the ability to travel (i.e. the why behind the goal).
    • John mentions this is another example of mixing fear and reward. Jason wants to avoid the pain but also wants to be around to travel and accomplish various other things.
    • John also suggests that perhaps to make goals achievable (the A in SMART) we need to think about making our goals fun. Part of a training plan for exercise might be running, it might be playing pickleball, lifting weights, or perhaps some of all of these.
      • John references Acuff’s story of reading 100 books in a year during which he redefined what counted as a book. Audiobooks counted, graphic novels counted, etc. It doesn’t have to be that only 500 page books read by candlelight count.
      • Jason says goal setting is like a game. If we define the rules that go along with the goal, we have a better chance of completing the goal. And it makes things more fun as well.

25:16 – Chapter 5: Leave Your Hiding Places and Ignore Noble Obstacles

  • Jason gives the example of it being April and people being focused on their taxes.
    • If your desk is messy, you might decide to clean it before you work on your taxes. But it’s really just a hiding place in disguise.
    • We might be fearful of working on a goal or a task toward a goal, and we can end up hiding in another activity that feels like an accomplishment. It only delays your goal.
  • According to the book, a hiding place is “the safe place you go to hide from your fear of messing up. It’s a task that lets you get your perfectionism fix by making you feel successful even as you avoid your goal.”
    • Cleaning up your office might be important, but what you’re really doing might be avoiding your taxes.
    • Nick can definitely identify with the distraction of hiding places. They often come to him in the form of new ideas that pop into his head once he is close to finishing production and publishing of an episode. He should consider writing these down and doing them later instead of acting upon the ideas exactly when they come.
    • Jason mentions once we get close to finishing our goal, it’s amazing how many ideas our brains come up with, and every one of them could distract us. When we get ideas we feel like we need to start them right then, and it can be very easy to walk away from your original goal as a result.
      • Goals will get us into creative mode and end up leading to ideas for other goals.
      • “But we have to be in the mindset of…I don’t want to forget this. This is something that I want to do. I need to write it down so that I can plan for maybe after I finish this goal…and not just forget.” – Jason Gass, on what to do to avoid being distracted by new ideas
  • A noble obstacle is the “very good reason” you cannot pursue your goal. It’s an attempt to make your goal harder than it has to be so you don’t have to finish but can still look respectable.
    • This might be phrases like I can’t do X until Y.
    • “I can’t eat healthy until I finish eating all the unhealthy stuff in my pantry.”
    • “I can’t work out because I’ll get too big. Then I’ll need a new wardrobe, and I can’t afford a new wardrobe.”
    • Jason has seen this happen a lot when working on home projects sort of like a domino effect. He feels like people get caught up because these statements happen in our heads. It could be worse than it really is.
      • Writing the steps we need to take down on paper allows organization and for us to see any true dependencies. It might also lead to smaller microgoals before accomplishing the overall goal.
      • This can also solve the problem of having a bunch of steps to complete a project and not knowing where to start.
    • John had an initial negative reaction to this section but after thinking about it again agrees with it overall.
      • He intentionally makes a reverse timeline for projects to map out dependencies and put the tasks in the right order to understand where to start. This approach doesn’t create a barrier. It’s a definition of what is needed to accomplish the goal.
      • “And I think that intentionality and the planning…and then actually starting is the difference between a barrier and a plan.” – John White, on noble obstacles vs. planning
      • Perhaps you have dirty dishes in your sink and say you cannot cook because you have a sink of dishes. That could cause you to stop completely. But if you plan to clean the dishes early enough to cook the meal on time, that is different.
      • Jason felt the chapter may have been lacking by not emphasizing planning / getting things out of your head.
  • Jason thinks this chapter in a way hinted at impostor syndrome though it was never mentioned in the book.
    • Jason gives the example building concrete countertops. He has in the past stopped himself from continuing and questioning whether he was talented enough to do it. It creates a noble obstacle of “until I’m a master, I can’t do this….I can’t even start because I don’t know all of the skill sets.”
      • It’s hinted on that this is where impostor syndrome starts.
  • John thinks his negative reaction warranted only a light critique.
    • He would have liked to hear some emphasis on the difference between throwing up a reason not to start and creating a project plan to start execution.
  • Nick feels he will be more mindful of calling people out for throwing up noble obstacles, especially himself.
  • The book tells us perfectionism says it can’t be easy to finish a goal.
    • “Instead of making things complicated and difficult, instead of giving in to noble obstacles, finishers stack the odds before they even start. Perfectionism always makes things harder and more complicated. Finishers make things easier and simpler. The next time you work on a goal…ask the following questions during the middle of the project: Could things be easier? Could things be simpler?” – Jon Acuff
    • For some reason we feel like if something is easy it is like cheating. Jason isn’t sure where this stems from. Getting to our goal is the most important thing.
    • John mentions we often calibrate accomplishment with level of difficulty. We know this is the case with judging Olympic gymnastics vaulting and in diving. Doing a simple dive perfectly, for example, is not necessarily as good as achieving less than 100% at a higher complexity dive.
      • “So level of difficulty somehow creeps in to our judgment of accomplishment as opposed to what’s important about actually accomplishing the final goal as simply and easily as possible.” – John White

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