To See the Light at the End of the Tunnel, Know This...

A trip; a puzzle; a project. They have a lot in common. There’s intention. Followed by action. And a myriad of ways to get from the point at which you start to the end point – whether that’s the reached destination, completed puzzle or finished project.

Very broadly, the starting and ending points for each are often characterized by high enthusiasm and energy. But frequently, the space in between is met with unexpected challenges, obstacles, detours and interruptions.

In other words: not fun.

So if, like me, you have an unfinished project looming over your head because you’ve hit a road-block, reading the six words immediately below might piss you off:

Finishing a project (or not) is a choice.

Harsh? Well, I don’t mean to be.

In fact, I am hoping that you (and I) find honing in on “choice” energizing.

Fresh starts

In a few days, it will be September – the other fresh start month. Not only is it back to school and work for many, but it’s also an excellent time for “unfinishers” to re-focus on those projects that are lingering in the purgatory of being incomplete. Especially if you’re wanting to make a huge dent or possibly complete a project by December 31st.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked about how the perception of time and your mindset play a role in your unfinished projects. Now it is time to talk about a third factor needed to get a project done: your energy.

I know, I know, it sounds so woo-woo. And yet, sustaining your energy and enthusiasm play a critical role in whether or not you are a finisher when it comes to your ambitious, but deadline-free projects. Because energy is all about your ability to be fully engaged.

What zaps your energy

Before I share what I believe are the three common energy zappers, take a moment to think about a project of yours that is on hold. What zapped your energy; how far into your project were you when it happened; what have you done thus far to get back into a groove, if anything at all?

How does your list compare to mine below?

Underestimating how long it takes

If you’ve never lived through a renovation, ask someone who has…they rarely go to plan. Truth is few plans unfold as originally forecasted. And the larger the project, the more difficult (though necessary) it is to estimate how long it will take.

But you and I have a tendency to make overly optimistic predictions about time.

So it can be discouraging when you planned to complete a project in six weeks, and it turns out you should have planned on it taking you six months or more. And if you’re only measuring the completion and not the progress as well, then it is understandable that your enthusiasm and energy would begin to wane.

The antidote: Estimate more time. My very unscientific suggestion is to apply a 2x factor. So, if you originally estimate two weeks, make it four. Four months, make it eight.

Not factoring in interruptions

Most of us suck at asking, “What could go wrong?” Even though it is such an important question that sets you up for success.

So you make your plan, dive straight in, but never pause to consider a contingency response if technology fails you; if a family member gets sick; if you get sick; if….

As a result, you get blind-sided by the unexpected challenge or obstacle and then not only have to deal with the surprise but also come up with a work-around. Interruptions, regardless of their nature, extend your timeline!

The antidote: Don’t skip asking and answering the question – “What could go wrong?” And, then making a plan B that accounts for your answers.

Project scope creep

With any project, large or small, it can be difficult to be absolutely clear about every detail and task you need to tackle. Sometimes, this absence of clarity leads to a phenomenon normally associated with construction, design and large project management endeavors. But we are all susceptible to this energy zapper.

In a nutshell, scope creep occurs when you realize your project is actually larger than you initially envisioned. Maybe you underestimated the project’s scope from the beginning, or maybe as you got started you realized there were hidden elements or aspects you hadn’t factored into your original estimation.

Either way, your project has ballooned and will certainly cost you more time and maybe even more money. Energy zapper!

The antidote: Work on your project regularly and track your progress.

As odd as it may sound, the goal isn’t so much to control scope creep as it is to identify it early. The best way to do this is to work with a schedule – both in terms of the work you do on your project and the work you do to track your progress. The sooner you realize scope creep is occurring, the better able you are to practice being agile and adjust your game-plan accordingly.

Choose to move forward, even if slowly

The law of inertia says that a body in motion stays in motion. Well, substitute “project” for body and you can see how the same applies. Most of your projects become “unfinished” because you’ve lost enthusiasm and momentum. With this series, you now have a three-pronged blueprint for getting to done.

Because…

You’re no longer waiting for the perfect time to get started…again. You are clearer about the “job” of your project in your life (personal, professional or financial). You know how to discern and respond to what’s zapping your energy.

You now know what you need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And you get to choose whether to stand still… or take a step forward.

p.s. Join us for the next Comfort Circle dinner on September 25th where we’re going to help you go from unfinished to finished. Whether your project is personal, professional or financial, we can help you get unstuck, take control and move forward. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

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