Projects can be overwhelming. We don’t know where to start, we get discouraged by their long-term rewards and there is rarely any urgency to get started in those first few weeks when the deadline is so far away. At Performance Lab, we want to make sure that you are using your Focus Planner to be most productive. And while this seems easy from a day-to-day perspective, we also want you to use it effectively to plan those long term projects. Here’s where you can start.
Set Your Timelines
As soon as you get the project, make sure that you set realistic timelines and milestones. We suggest that you work backwards from the deadline, first planning monthly milestones and then breaking them down into weekly milestones.
In your Focus Planner, you have built-in Project Milestones in your Monthly and Weekly Spreads, so once you’ve outlined where you need to be at each of these points, go ahead and write them down in your Focus Planner. If you have milestones that are beyond the next few months then keep them in your spreadsheet to be placed in your next planner after this quarter is finished.
Create a Project ‘Collection’
Find a blank page at the back of your Focus Planner and write a heading with Project Name. Now, you need to break the project down into tasks on this page.
You know you need to do this, right? It’s not enough to just have those weekly milestones. To really gain momentum, motivation and a sense of achievement, you really need to break the project down into every SMALL ACHIEVEABLE TASKS that you can tick off a list. We suggest that you break it up into the smallest possible measurable achievements. Write down things like “create a list of stakeholders” or “write first paragraph of business case.” As small as these tasks might seem, it is vital for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows you that you can move the project forward, even if you can only find 20 minutes to devote to it that day. Secondly, when we can cross something off our list (or even use the bullet system that we outlined here) we get a feeling of achievement and we build momentum. The biggest problem with long term projects is that we don’t regularly get that dopamine hit of making progress, so we combat this with small tasks that we can tick off often.
[ STREAMLINE YOUR LIST BY USING THESE SIMPLE SYMBOLS. CLICK HERE TO READ ]
Plan Your Weekly Project Tasks
Now when you plan your week, remember to take a quick look at the Project Collection you’ve made in the back of your Focus Planner. Decide which tasks will get you to the milestone you have committed to for that week and put them in the blank space at the end of the spread.
Plan Your Daily Project Tasks
Every day, check back on that weekly list of project tasks, and write down the things that are going to get done that day. You can write a bullet list of things you want to tick off, or you can schedule them in your daily plan (either in the planner or electronically – it’s up to you).
At the end of the week, go back and see if you’ve hit your milestone for the project. You can also go to your Project Collection and cross off all the things that have now been done. You might find at this point that you need to add some other tasks to the collection.
In all of our workshops and keynotes throughout Australia, one of the things we constantly see is that people fall behind on Projects because they get caught up in the day to day activity of BAU (business as usual). Putting better short-term structure around your Projects is a sure-fire way to help them get more of your attention every day. The urgency, simplicity and achievement of monitoring small, achievable tasks every day is a better strategy than looking for a four-hour block of time to make a big dent in that long-term project.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe