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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.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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