Do you ever get that feeling that some projects may never end. That some tasks, though properly captured, just never get your attention? Why is it that we start these endeavours, that we note these things we really want, or need to do, and yet they remain incomplete? I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the last few years. I have many grand plans, many ideas that I start and that’s how they remain. I got to thinking, “what is really holding me back from getting these projects done?”
Turns out there are a number of things that either act independently, or form an alliance with other factors that can stall your projects. Luckily, each has a countermeasure that you can act on now!
It’s on you
At first I blamed others. It wasn’t my fault things couldn’t be progressed. I was waiting on input. Or, someone else was asking for too much of my time, taking it away from the projects I wanted to focus on. While I was thinking like this nothing could get done. If it is a personal project, the only person that can make progress is you. For collaborative projects, it’s time to take ownership; grab it by the horns and go.
There’s almost always some part of the project that can be worked on, even if another part is held up for some reason. This is the time to work on those areas.
Know your limits
We’re only human. We have limits. It’s not realistic or practical to commit to every project and attempt to run them at the same time. Taking too much on creates an unnecessary amount of stress, causes delays and can stall projects. There are only so many plates you can spin at once, only so many knives that can be juggled.
One way to work on multiple projects and ensure progress is being made on all of them is to do what’s called “time chunking” or “time blocking.” With this approach each active project is alloted a predefined amount of time each week. This sounds great when planning, however when you really get into a project during one of those chunks of time, when the time runs out it can be hard to stop and switch projects, only because you’ve picked up so much momentum. But, to keep all of your projects moving forward, this is a sacrifice that must be made.
If you’re like me, and just cannot control the random ideas that pop in to your head, ideas that ignite that spark and make you want to start working on them right away, the right approach here is to capture the project and store it in your reference system for later. These project ideas should be reviewed at least monthly. This “incubation” period will help to give you a new perspective – an idea that seems like the best thing since sliced bread one day, my seem like a waste of time the next.
Never forget your goals
As life goes on, a project that was very exciting in the beginning can become dull and monotonous. When this happens it’s very important to stop and review. Take note of how much work has been done so far. This will help you realise that you’ve already come a long way, or maybe you’ve not. Taking a step back and looking and your progress will create a sense of clarity and help you understand how important this project really is to you.
Another great idea here is to create a dual “so that” plan when you first start the project. A “so that” plan is an idea of taken from Pat Flynn and his approach to creating value, which is really what we’re trying to do with any project anyway. The concept is simple. Start with a one line summary that describes the project. For example, if you are writing a book, your “so that” plan might start with “write book about vampires”. Next is the most important part – add the words “so that”. Now finish that sentence with two objectives, one as it relates to who your project is for, and another as it relates to you. In the case of the vampire book, the complete dual “so that” might look like this…
Write a book about vampires so that the reader is terrified and I get a publishing offer.
Print this out in big print and stick on your wall next to any place you frequent – your desk at work, the kitchen at home, wherever you need that pick up. This one sentence will constantly remind you why you started this project in the first place and will inspire you to keep it moving forward.
Create a finish line
You know the feeling – when the deadline for that important project or report is looming, just days away; your heart races and the pressure sets in; you buckle down and get stuck into the task so the deadline is met. And it is.
Use a similar, albeit less stressful approach to avoid having those longer projects stall. Pick a realistic date when you believe the project you’re working on should be completed. This date may also be influenced by external factors such as the time of year. After honing in on any influences to meeting a certain date lock in that day. Grab a calendar and mark that particular day. A yearly calendar such as the NeuYear calendar is a great idea here since the marked date will always be visible.
With the final deadline now set, rather than leave everything you need to do in a jumbled mess, spend time planning out smaller milestones, and again mark those on the calendar, but in a different colour. At this point you coud break down things even further into even smaller milestones, or discrete tasks. However, you may not want to have your tasks show on your calendar – missing one will create a visual snowball and create added stress in your brain.
Now work towards each of those milestones. Each deadline will surely add an element of stress, and if that’s the kind of things that spurs you into action, harness it. As you reach each milestone, celebrate. Look back at how much you have achieved and use that as fuel to build the momentum.
Know when to stop
Some things are just not meant to be. The project you envision as being a tremendous success may turn out a dud. It can happen. I have personally been through this with a startup. After pouring a year worth of time, effort and money into the project it went nowhere.
I used to work with someone that had a saying. This saying is simple and effective: “fail early.” It sounds negative and depressing, but there is much more to it. The message here is to not let projects that are clearly showing signs of negativity, including negative influences on your life, your personality, and your relationships, continue, stop them in their tracks. When a project begins to show signs that it is going in a direction you did not expect you really must consider whether the project should continue to be pursued.
Create a barrier around the project. This could be a financial barrier, or a time barrier for example. If the project wants to creep outside of those boundaries consider pulling the plug. The barrier is he limit where the project “costs” more than the reward.
Visualisation is a powerful thing. It can create dreams, instill fear, and inspire action. When you feel stuck with a project, step back and take time to reflect on it. Meditation sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Find a quiet place and close your eyes. Focus on the project. Do not let the minutiae of the details cloud your mind. Instead picture yourself at the end of the project, the day you can declare it complete. Note what that feels like.
Take this a step further. Picture yourself a month, or a year after the project is complete. What impact has that project had on your life, your relationships, your career? What impact has that project had on those around you and more importantly, those who take advantage of the results of the project?
These thoughts will conjur powerful positive images and feelings. After you have let all that positivity sink in, open your eyes. Now, write down what you experienced, how you felt and how you feel after the visualisation.
These five simple tricks might just be enough to help you make progress on your projects. I use the term “project” fairly loosely here to describe any kind of endeavour that comprises a number of tasks or actions. It could be planning a wedding, taking college exams, or developing that next big thing in technology. No matter the scope, we all need a little reminder about why we do the things we do, and a gentle shove in the right direction. I hope these tips have inspired you, or at least engaged your mind to make you think about what motivates you.