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

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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.

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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

4 Ways to Become a People Connector How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success 3 Ways To Cut Your Daily Work Interruptions 3 Reasons you need to prioritize sleep if you want to be successful 5 Reasons Saying Yes is Hurting Your Business

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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