One of the things I’ve been trying to force myself to do over the last few months is to set more realistic expectations on myself so that I can deliver things in a way that is comfortable for myself. I don’t know about you, but I’m more own worst enemy when it comes to giving myself deadlines and setting schedules for how and when I’ll complete things.
It has been over the last couple years, my single biggest source of personal frustration with how I’ve gone about things.
It’s funny too because I totally recognize that it’s a problem but yet when I’m doing my planning for a project, I inevitably make the mistake of not giving myself enough time and committing to crazy schedules.
When Scott and I did our AWS Course on Udemy late in 2017, that was a great example – we decided to get it done by a certain date and we pushed for that. I think I ended up working like 56 hours on the course in a week on top of doing Casual Marketer AND working on a huge submission for my 40 hour per week, day job.
It was crazy – it got done, but I was a wreck and I didn’t REALLY get a chance to have a break for about 5 weeks after that! I went from one project at work to the next for over a month and when that was finally done and Christmas rolled around, I just needed to mentally check out for a few days.
But a lot of the time, particularly in my online businesses, I end up just missing the deadlines, pushing things back and watching a cascade of deadline failure back everything up.
It’s frustrating and something I need to fix.
Let me start by saying, this is a personal discipline issue. I’m normally pretty good about things like this, but setting silly deadlines and crushing projects together in tight timeframes is my kryptonite.
With the book, I tried to address it in two ways:
- Setting a deadline that gave me some contingency if I got busy with the rest of my life so that I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed
- I cleared all of my other projects and decided nothing else would get worked on in a meaningful way until the book was published
This strategy worked – I gave myself about three weeks to get everything done, I did it in about a week (I was further along than I thought) and I managed to keep my focus.
I’ve now lined up the next project that I’m working on which is again, finishing off a partially completed thing. I have decided I won’t work on another project outside this one until it’s done and tomorrow has been set aside to get the timeline sorted for completion so that I know what I’m looking at.
It’s kind of funny, but I do this kind of program management all day at work and then I routinely don’t apply it to my own business with as much diligence as I probably should.
What they say about plumbers having leaky faucets is right sometimes.
I’m willing to bet that every single person reading this has a laundry list of half finished projects and initiatives that they want to get done in their business. Some of those will be just nascent ideas that you’d started but haven’t put much work into and others will be those ones where you get 80% finished and don’t finish them off before moving onto one of those pesky nascent ideas.
So here’s my challenge for you.
Put all of these projects down on a list and then put them in a completion order of some kind. You can sort the order however you want – you might decide to knock off the projects that are furthest along, it could be the ones that stand to deliver the most value or it could even be the ones that are the most fun.
But create your list and order it.
Then next to the first task on the list, assign a due date.
But not just any “due date” because part of the problem is that we overestimate our ability to get things done and underestimate the time it will take to do it.
So the due date should have some contingency built into it – let’s be generous, give ourselves 100% contingency for the first task. If you think it’s going to take you a week, give yourself two week.
Don’t fret that you’re overcooking the contingency, if you finish early, you get it back.
Here’s the thing about contingency though, it needs to have a cost attached to it – if you don’t have a cost, you don’t respect the initial deadline. Using our example above, if you think it will take you a week, but you have two weeks with contingency, then you’ll no doubt doddle around and not finish until the end of the second week.
That’s why contingency needs to have a cost attached to it.
I’ve heard of a couple of good ones – one guy I know, he assigned a dollar value per day to his contingency and when he uses it, he has to contribute that amount to a charity that he hates. For example, this guy is an atheist, so when he gets into his contingency days, he forces himself to donate $20 per day to a religion – he once had to donate $200 to Scientology which cut him pretty deeply.
And of course, you can reward yourself for finishing your project. Some people don’t work well with just the stick, they need a bit of carrot as well.
For me, I didn’t need any inducements to make me get the book done, but maybe you might need a little something to help keep you focused.
Either way, set up a framework for yourself to focus on one task at a time, keep the motivation in place and drive towards your desired outcome. When you start seeing the benefits of getting stuff done, it will become easier, but take it from me, don’t give up on your structure too soon – you’ll feel like you can take the training wheels off, but you can’t, not yet anyway.
Hopefully, this was beneficial for you and you can apply this tactic to your own business and projects to get more done!