The 90 percent problem


I have a persistent problem with completing things.

Maybe you experience it, too?

You start planning a project — how exciting! Inspiration is everywhere. You gather supplies and dig in. Submerged in a flurry of tasks — whether it’s painting, calculating, organizing, cooking, writing, building — you keep pushing until you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You step back to take a breath and admire your nearly complete hard work.

And you don’t step back forward to finish it.

It’s probably because you noticed some critical detail you forgot, or because you left the hard parts for last. Whatever the reason, the project sits there, 90% finished. It taunts you. But you can’t regain your momentum.

When I started writing this post, I googled the phrase “the 90% problem” to see if others had written about it. Of course they have. There’s even a Wikipedia article on the ninety-ninety rule, which is an adage from software development that states:

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

Sounds awfully familiar.

I’d like to get better at finishing the things I start before moving on to new ones. The next few weeks will be focused on Christmas prep and travel, but in January the first thing I’ll finish is my craft area you see above (did most of it in one weekend, and it’s been sitting at 90% since our housewarming party). Pinky swear.


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