ACTION! Doing, Doing, Done! – Finishing That Big Project
Big projects are daunting, whether it's a strategic plan, a
screenplay, a new business plan or a book. Although you want to
complete it, you find that things prevent you from attaining the
goal – getting it done.
During a large project it's easy to become distracted.
Procrastination sets in, you lose focus, you become frustrated, and
you check email 47 times a day. You doubt your competence and ability
to do what you set out to do. These factors pull you away from the
task at hand. What is needed to stay on track, feel good about your
progress and finish?
To tackle the project, you need to approach the work from two
perspectives: internal preparation and external preparation.
Internal preparation gets you mentally ready. Answer these questions:
What is the mindset I want to have about the project? How do I create
realistic expectations? What's my biggest fear about the project?
What will completing it mean to me?
External preparation gets you physically ready. Answer these
questions: What resources do I need to start this project? What do I
need to move ahead? What environment is most conducive to my
productivity? These answers will lay a foundation for starting and
Make sure you follow the 7 P's to ensure increased productivity and
Before you begin, map out what needs to be done and when. Break down
tasks into the smallest piece possible. Start with the date you want
the project completed, and work backwards. If the project is going on
over weeks or months, you'll want to have clear goals for each time
Continue breaking down your work in to daily accomplishments, and
even what you want to complete in each work session. As you can see,
planning is not a one time event. It is an integral part of your
work. You will be adjusting your plan regularly as you complete
before or behind schedule.
Your work area needs to be a productive area. Remove distractions and
don't allow interruptions. For example, turn off your email and shut
down your internet access (unless it's specifically needed for your
work) and don't answer the phone. Jane, a client*, was in the process
completing her PhD dissertation. She loved to garden and take care of
her lawn. She had her desk and workspace facing her yard which caused
her to often daydream about being outside instead of engaged with her
project. An easy rearrangement of office furniture significantly
enhanced her productivity and focus.
When a very large task looms in front of you, even if you know what
to do and how to do it, the perceived enormity of the work itself can
be a road block. "Just Do It" doesn't always work if you're
Begin with baby steps. Committing to just one action at a time that
moves you towards a bigger goal can begin the momentum. Instead of
sitting down to write the first scene of a play, take the baby step
of deciding on the setting or a character or a theme. Once the first
task is completed, you can move on to the next step. These steps add
up quickly, and each success is the foundation for more progress.
Committing time every day will also support your momentum, no matter
how small the allotted time. This will help you develop a routine so
that missing a day working on the project will not feel like an
While working steadily is a desired outcome, it's important to invest
time in the most important tasks of the project; the components of
the project that will have the most impact on completion. Sometimes
these tasks feel like the most difficult. But, when they are
completed, significant progress is made.
While Stephen Covey stresses focusing on the `important vs. the
urgent,' many clients, when faced with intimidating goals, focus on
the easy vs. the important.
When doing a job search, John spent the bulk of his time posting
resumes on job boards as it was easy. He had a small network of
former colleagues that he was not utilizing because it was more
challenging to set up calls and meetings to discuss his skills and
possible job opportunities. Once he focused on more important
actions, he felt better about the work ahead and began seeing
With all of this work, work, work, will there every be time for
anything else until the entire project is done? You must make this a
Although it may feel counterproductive not to work 15 hours a day on
your project, if you ignore other areas of your life, a large
quantity of work time will not lead to the quality of work that you
want or to the level of productivity that is possible.
Jack, while writing a novel, was working 12+ hour days in order to
complete his first draft. He spent this time without breaks for the
gym, times with friends and family or keeping up with his laundry.
When he cut back to six to eight hours a day, he found himself more
energized, effective and efficient in his writing and not resenting
the work he previously loved to do since he had time for other
meaningful things in his life.
You will hit roadblocks, you will get frustrated AND you will finish,
if you keep moving ahead with the work you've defined. When barriers
seem insurmountable, this is when you must get in to `tortoise mode' –
keep working no matter how slow progress seems. Inertia breeds more
inertia and activity breeds momentum – choose action no matter how
Robert purchased a timer that he could wear around his neck. When he
felt himself pulled away from his project (to email, to call his
wife, to get a drink) due to a challenge in the work, he would set
his timer for 15 minutes and not allow himself to leave his desk
before the timer went off. During this short time frame, he usually
refocused his energy, got over the desire to stop and made some
progress. If he walked away from his desk in response to the
immediate challenge, it would have been very difficult for him to
resume that day or even that week.
Lastly, don't go it alone! Even if this is your novel, your business
plan, your project, others can help you in getting it done. Whether
you join a writing group for encouragement, ask a colleague if you
can regularly check-in with them about your marketing plan or hire a
professional for support and accountability, seek support from
others. A partner can mean the difference in getting from `doing'
Keeping these seven `Ps' in mind and in action as you progress on
your project will lead to powerful productivity and a finished
project. Congratulations on getting it done!
*All client scenarios have been changed to protect confidentiality.
by Julie Cohen
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© 2006 Julie Cohen, www.juliecohencoaching.com
Julie Cohen, PCC, is a Career Coach. She helps her clients clarify
and achieve their professional and personal goals including greater
career satisfaction, life balance, leadership development and
personal growth. For questions, comments or to discuss this article,
Julie can be reached by visiting