Do you have anxiety about finishing your work? With a few strategies, you can learn how to overcome your fear and finish what you started.

Person with completion anxiety nervously checking tasks off list in pencilShare on Pinterest
Melinda Podor/Getty Images

Why can it be so hard to complete the the first or last 10% of a task? Perhaps just when you thought you were near completion, something happens, and it feels nearly impossible to get your work done.

If this sounds all too familiar, then you know how overwhelming it can feel to get knee-deep in a task but not bring yourself to complete it.

“Why do I do this?” you may ask.

If you typically don’t finish what you start on time (or at all), there may be a reason for it. You can learn how to overcome these roadblocks and prevent your anxiety from causing you to procrastinate completing your projects.

Completion anxiety is the fear that you will not be able to complete a task or the worry that you will not perform well enough to meet the standards set by others, says Dr. Nathan Brandon, a licensed psychologist in San Francisco.

If you’re known to procrastinate, you’re not alone. According to research conducted by psychology professor Dr. Joseph Ferrari, about 20% of adults in the United States are chronic procrastinators. If you feel your anxiety and aversion to completing tasks are interfering with completing your projects, it may be due to:

Low self-esteem

Do you fear being negatively judged or evaluated once your task is complete? If you do, this is when completion anxiety can occur, says Ellie Borden, a psychotherapist in Toronto.

Fear and low self-esteem often go hand-in-hand. A 2017 study suggests that if you have anxiety, you’re more prone to low self-esteem and can find it difficult to overcome your negative thinking patterns. If you’re thinking is fear-based, then you may have a hard time finishing your task.

Fear of failure

Another reason you may avoid completing tasks is a fear of failure. At some point in your life, you may have received the message that you weren’t good enough or capable enough, says Jason Drake, a licensed clinical social worker in Katy, Texas.

Worrying can lead to procrastination and keep you from accomplishing your tasks and goals, say experts in a 2017 study. If you’re worried your boss thinks your efforts aren’t good enough, then your boss says you’re work isn’t good enough, this only reinforces your fear, says Drake.

Mental health conditions

Some mental health conditions could also interfere with task completion, such as:

  • Avoidant personality disorder, which has to do with folks being so averse to rejection they might avoid situations or tasks at all costs that involve interpersonal exchanges. It could be a date or a time-sensitive work project
  • ADHD can challenge folks when it comes to any or all stages of tasks, due to brain differences with executive function, which often causes anxiety and overwhelm.
  • Bipolar disorder manic episodes feature a common symptom: A sudden flight of ideas, often starting more than one project or endeavor and not finishing them. Someone might not notice the incompleteness while another feels intense anxiety over the unfinished endeavor(s).

If you’re prone to anxiety and procrastination and fear completing simple tasks, there are ways you can overcome your fear. Here are a few suggestions.

Try to identify the root cause of anxiety

The first thing you could consider is identifying the source of your anxiety, says Brandon. Understanding where your anxiety comes from can help you find a way to manage it.

To help you connect the dots, you can take a moment to think about where this anxiety may stem from. You might realize your fear of completing tasks comes from a lack of support at home or insecurity you have from getting negative feedback in the past.

Break down tasks into smaller parts

To prevent procrastination due to completion anxiety try breaking your tasks into smaller parts, says Borden. This can help make your tasks feel more manageable which can help diminish your feelings of anxiety.

You can think about the end product of your task then work backward to plot out the steps you need to take to make it happen. You might want to spend a set amount of time on each step until you see it through.

Here’s a guide to stress-reducing study habits that can help you budget your time to task completion.

Create a schedule

Consider scheduling your to-dos into your day and throughout your week like you would an appointment. “The benefit of scheduling is that it sets a goal date of when that project will be completed,” says Drake.

Time management strategies for students may give you options to schedule tasks. Including:

  • day theming
  • time blocking
  • time boxing
  • task batching

Some tasks may make you feel overwhelmed, but when you see them over spread out throughout the week and see that there is a goal date for completion, it may help make it feel less overwhelming, explains Drake.

If you have anxiety about completing tasks, then you may have completion anxiety. This is when you fear or worry you will not perform well on your task.

Your angst may interfere with getting your work done due to:

  • low self-esteem
  • a fear of failure
  • mental health conditions where symptoms include anxiety or challenges with tasks

You can overcome your roadblock and finish what you’ve started by:

  • identifying the cause of anxiety
  • breaking down tasks
  • creating a schedule

Completion anxiety will take some self-awareness and perseverance, but with the mindfulness and sound strategies, you can learn to manage your anxiety, overcome any fears, and finish what you start.