The new year is already here and, like most people, I find myself struggling to correctly organize my various projects. New ones need planning and organizing, half-finished ones that should have been ready months ago need finalizing, prospective ones need reviewing, while some really just need binning.
Knowing your end goal is a rare but special thing, giving you pride in your stride and a sense of purpose every morning. However, like any great venture, it requires vision and a lot of hard work. Being able to see the big picture of what you’re doing obviously helps, right; but let’s face it: vision without planning is pointless.
So, how to deal with all your projects without loosing track? What’s the key to staying on top of you game, without suffering multiple panic attacks or stress-related sleep loss? Here is what I call The Basic Four of any project.
One. Prioritization – deciding when to do what and most importantly, what to do first. When juggling many projects, you have to decide which one must take precedence over another. This is directly linked to Deadlines: the final date you have realistically set for handing in or finalizing a project. If one task for a project is due at the end of the week, it obviously has priority over something due at the end of the month. The only way to sort out what task needs doing and when is to make a detailed plan.
Two. Planning– setting both short- and long-term goals for each project and its related tasks. Some projects require almost full-time dedication, calling for you to fulfill certain tasks on a daily basis, while others may only need a couple of hours a week. The best way to keep track of what needs doing and when is to make a monthly Project/Task planner. This way you can keep track of daily, weekly and monthly procedures. Keep a calendar of tasks and their deadlines, along with what project they belong to and possible notes that may help you along the way.
Alternately, you can adopt my favourite method of organizing things: the Almighty List! I find lists to be the best way of freeing my mind of my own damn clutter. Not keeping lists, means your brain is on constant stand-by for you to retrieve that information. Jotting it down on paper however, means that any information previously residing in you short-term memory, is automatically moved to a hard-copy place, making it indelible and much easier for you to review again and again. Hopefully each time checking something off ;)
Note that projects with certain expenses also need to be strictly budgeted. You don’t want to be broke for your Grand Masterplan before you’ve even got started. Get your numbers on track, keep a record, set up a budget and stick to it.
Three. Action – putting in the hours needed for you to meet your goals. This of course requires discipline. And while I’m no big fan of imposed working schedules –and even less so of having a boss over my head- I recognize that being disciplined is important- even more so when you actually are your own boss! The key is good Time Management. Twenty four hours in a day are more than enough to get a decent amount of work done. Be realistic, don’t over-load yourself and get your head around the idea that, the more you procrastinate, the more you’ll hate yourself when the deadline comes.
However, let us not forget that discipline is just plain old torture without motivation: A keen desire and determination to fulfill ones dreams and make them reality. A restless spirit and peace of mind are excellent tools for this by the way. As is the right kind of attitude, a good breakfast and a large cup of coffee.
Four. Follow up – tracking your progress and finding mistakes upon which you can improve your formula to success. So, after many productive days and sleepless nights, you’ve finally made it. Mission accomplished, you can now proudly cross it off your list and move on. Or maybe not…
What is so very crucial in being really good at what you do, and too often forgotten or dismissed, is the ability to evaluate your own work, fair and square. If you can spot what mistakes, weaknesses or difficulties you encountered, then you’ll know how to prepare for them next time round. This is what you do when you ‘learn from your mistakes.’
Make a list of Objectives at the beginning of the project and check it once you’re done. Did you meet your deadlines and stick to your budget? Did you up your own bar and improve? Or did your laze about and sacrifice the quality of your work? Quit mucking around, be honest with yourself and, if need be, shape up, get smart, get beta. A genius once said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
So, pull your socks up, make your plan and stick to it. Now you’re all set to “go forth and set the world on fire!” Oh, and of course you can give yourself a pat on the back once you’re done ;)