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The 4 biggest reasons you don’t finish projects and how to avoid them

The 4 biggest reasons you don’t finish projects and how to avoid them

When most consultants start their businesses they are scared. Scared that they won’t be able to pay the bills. Scared that when that happens they’ll end up closing their business and heading back to employment with their tail between their legs. This fear brings a bunch of pain in two ways.

First they say yes to terrible clients that treat them poorly. These clients keep asking for more value without wanting to pay more for the value. They treat you as little better than an employee they don’t have to pay benefits to.

The second painful part is that because of all these bad clients with continually changing requests you have a hard time finishing projects. Things continually get backed up and you end up working late into the evening seven days a week. These late nights lead to poor decisions which decrease your ability to finish projects even more.

To help you combat that let’s look at the 4 biggest reasons that projects fail to get completed. With just a bit of planning you can stop them all from happening.

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1. You didn’t scope the project properly

The biggest error most consultants make is they assume they already know what the project is about. They have a single 30 minute call with the prospect and then they send over an estimate based off a few hand written notes. They get the deposit and then get working only to discover there are about 56 extra things and they are all required and as the client talks you realize how they could have assumed they were required.

Unfortunately now you’re backed into a corner and need to complete the project, hopefully.

Solution: Before you can do any project you need to write up a detailed project plan. No the RFP the client sent you doesn’t count nor does the project plane they supplied. Use these documents as a base for your project plan.

Sometimes these sessions to write up a proper project plan are referred to as scoping sessions and what they come down to is going through all the items the prospect has asked for and writing out the deliverables but more importantly the outcomes for each item.

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I say more importantly the outcomes because the outcome is what’s really valuable to the client. They’re hiring you to increase sales, or decrease costs, not to just deliver a feature. At least that’s what they hire good consultants for.

2. You are working with the wrong client

All consultants have had clients that were simply needy. They want a call every day and have 22 new requests which of course should just be included in the original project and where are the 26 things they asked for yesterday? It’s no fun and it sucks the life right out of you, but it’s entirely your fault.

Solution: The solution to this is to establish a solid client vetting process. To do that you need to do a few things.

First, define your ideal client. One of the best resources for this is Micheal Port’s book Book Yourself Solid. If you have a bunch of bad clients now then it’s time to say goodbye to them.

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Second, setup a repeatable system to weed out the clients you don’t want. I use the same set of 9 questions in my initial email to prospects and don’t move forward with the sales process unless I like the answers they provide.

Third, you need to get them on the phone preferably with video to talk about the project. Nothing will give you a better read on the prospect than seeing their mannerisms and if you can’t meet them in person, video is the next best. At the very least you need to hear their voice so pick up that phone and have a call.

3. You just forgot about it

Ever get that email on Monday from a client that’s paid you money wondering where the project is at? You feel terrible because you simply forgot about the project and haven’t been working on it very much.

Solution: The problem here is that you’ve relied on your memory instead of having a reliable project management system to use to manage your projects.

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The simple fact is that if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen. Choose a project management system. It doesn’t matter much what you choose just get a system and use it for all projects.

4. You’re too busy

We love to say yes as consultants. We want to help people and it feels awesome to have people want to work with us. We’re also brought up to be people pleasers, so it’s hard to say NO to prospects.

Sometimes even with a good client vetting process you’re still going to have more good qualified leads than you should be handling. The problem is you keep saying yes and then projects take a bit longer (because they always do) and then you’re running to many projects at once.

Solution: The only solution to this is to say NO more, even if the lead is a qualified lead. One way of saying NO more without actually saying no is to raise your rates. Some of the leads that you previously got will now think that you’re too expensive and just won’t come to work with you anymore.

Another way is to add criteria for your ideal clients. Instead of just working with fitness coaches, only work with Crossfit coaches. That will eliminate some of the leads you would have taken before.

No one wants to leave a swath of ruined projects in their wake. With just a bit of planning and a few processes in place to vet clients and manage projects you can help ensure that you don’t fail to finish projects.

More by this author

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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