In his book, “Start Finishing,” where he talks about going from idea to done, my good friend Charlie Gilkey shares the following, “…By project I mean anything that takes time, energy, and attention to complete.”
What I love about his definition is that it reminds you and me that almost everything we undertake – personally or professionally – is a project. For example, completing that multi-step chore (like organizing or getting to inbox zero); planning a trip; creating your marketing plan, etc.
Right now, I am in the midst of one of my most meaningful projects: preparing my estate plan.
If you’ve done one, you know it takes time, energy, and attention. Likewise, it is emotional. And if you haven’t done yours yet, your reason may likely be related to a host of emotions. My point: either way you slice it, the estate planning process is an emotional undertaking.
So, as we continue with our Summer 2021 top-ten series, revisiting a few of our most popular blog topics, I want to talk about projects, productivity, and the power of protecting your time and energy.
Especially in the midst of a pandemic, when the need to get stuff done hasn’t changed. Though, how you do so may have shifted.
Especially given where we are on the calendar – with five months left to get something done, or make significant progress in an effort to do so before year-end.
The Next Five Months
I shared my meaningful project.
What’s yours? Send me a DM on Instagram if you’re game to share. I ask because I am curious, but also because I want you to keep your project in mind as you read on. Particularly if it’s a project with a self-imposed deadline.
Yes, projects without deadlines imposed by others require the same key things from you as other projects. But how you approach your productivity and protect your time and energy often require a different intentionality.
What’s the “why” behind your project?
In other words, what makes this project important to you, in general. And more specifically, what will it mean to complete it? How will you feel about yourself once it is done?
These questions are pertinent for both personal and business projects. But, for the latter, there is an additional question you’d want to answer: what problem is your project helping you solve on behalf of your clients, customers, or prospects? (Writing your SOPs is a good example.)
Getting clear or remembering your “why” can serve as your lighthouse for those times when you get stuck, lose momentum, and are unable to make the next decision, or take the next step or do the next task.
Steps & tasks
It’s helpful to avoid a common mistake of conflating your project with the process and tasks associated with completing the project! It may seem obvious, yet this distinction is important so that you are clear-eyed about what needs to be done, by when, and perhaps by whom.
Because even if you can make major decisions in one sitting, projects of the scope I’m addressing here are those that involve multiple steps and follow-up tasks. Ones that will likely take several days, weeks, or even months to finish.
(Side-note: Just pulling together my list of digital assets seemed like a never ending nesting doll exercise!)
So, not only did I prepare a categorized punch list of all the things I needed to gather for my attorney, I created a schedule and carved out 30-minutes a day to work on it.
Remember, your project is really a process (of steps and tasks) to make progress toward completion (the end-goal or result). (Don’t you just love alliteration!)
Are you actively working on the project that came to mind as you read today’s piece? Or, is this the reminder you really didn’t want (but hopefully appreciate)?
Whatever your answer, instead of waiting until you’re done, done to do so, why not commit to rewarding yourself for each milestone you hit.
Unfinished projects eventually take a toll. It’s like a weight that gets heavier and heavier by the day, month, and year. In part because you’re frustrated by your lack of progress.
But also because you’re having a hard time reconciling why you’re behaving this way with this project that means so much to you – when you don’t behave this way with ALL your projects.
If you’re not making the progress you want (or maybe need) to, return to your “why.” Doing so will give you insight so you can better figure out the reason it is hard to get this unfinished project done!
However, do so not with the goal of self-criticism and self-judgment. Do it with the goal of gaining greater self-awareness.
One last thing…
All projects take up space – whether it is physical, mental, emotional, financial or any combination of these.
All projects reflect a promise.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that you’re pretty good when it comes to keeping the promises you make to others. Yet, I wonder if you do as great a job when it comes to keeping the promises you make to yourself?
There are probably a myriad of reasons why you don’t keep (or haven’t kept) promises to yourself (in the form of completing your meaningful project/s). But, I bet one of them isn’t because:
- you don’t finish projects (you have a track record of having done so);
- you’re lazy; and
- you are unfocused.
If anything, this may be one of the reasons:
You haven’t fully tapped into the power of protecting your time and energy.
Yet you need to do this so you can have the time and energy to work on your meaningful project/s. Kind of meta, right?!
It may also mean you’re not saying “no” as often as you’d benefit from and/or to the people who most need to hear it from you. 🙂
If you’ve read this far, a) thank you!, and b) what next decision, step, or task are you going to do as soon as tomorrow?