A rather nice expression to describe doing something in an irregular fashion, starting and stopping at various intervals and thereby causing the action to drag out over time.
I asked Jerry to cut the grass but he’s doing it in fits and starts and it’s taking him ages. The lawn itself looks a mess half mown like that.
The start part is easy to understand but apparently this idiom came into being when the ´fit´ part was added. This meaning of fit refers to a seizure or spasm, like an epileptic fit. So, fits adds this spasmodic quality to the various starts a job is being done with.
The government promised to build a new highway but progress is going in fits and starts. Who knows when they will open it?