Advertising

How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success

How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success
Advertising

Our first instinct when we look at a new project is to dream of its potential success. If you’re writing a book, you dream of Oprah one day calling and whisking you off to her show. You’ll be on the bestsellers lists for months, and it’s all about beaches and vintage typewriters, doing your craft in between swimming in warm waters.

While this is certainly an entertaining dream, it quite obviously bears no relation to reality and it harms your project more than it helps it succeed. Instead of dreaming about that fanciful day of success, start by digging into how the project could fail. Here’s how this mindset can help.

It resets your happiness level

The first thing that thinking about failure in your project does is to reset your level of happiness. It’s much too easy to fall into a spiral of doom and gloom. You think that if the project fails, it all ends with you on the street, living in a fridge box because everyone has seen you for the fraud you know you are.

Advertising

This is a lie of course, and by planning out failure we inoculate ourselves against this doom-and-gloom mentality. You realize that if your book doesn’t launch as you dream, the worst that will happen is that only a few people will purchase it and you’ll have added to the endless amounts of unknown books out there. You’ll have to keep your current job, but that’s not so terrible, it’s just not the ideal dream. I’ve had products that no one bought, and I’ve had products since that many people have purchased. In both scenarios, I was totally fine and kept going.

It helps you build a good plan

The second big benefit of planning for failure is that it helps you plan for the things that could go wrong. Your product may not sell well because not enough people know about it. The solution to that is a good marketing strategy, not just something thrown together haphazardly after you’ve got the product finished.

Maybe no one will purchase it because it’s just a bad product. You can find that out if you do a bit of market research first.

Advertising

Way too many people start a project with only optimism and then don’t have a plan for the things that might go wrong. By thinking about as many of these potential issues as you can up front, you’ll be much better prepared when thing start to go poorly. No, you won’t catch every bad thing that could happen, but even having 20% of them covered up front will go a long way to helping the project succeed.

It helps you find out where to learn more

Another benefit to planning for the failure of a project is that you figure out where you need to go to learn more. In our example above, as you start to plan out a proper marketing strategy, maybe you find out that you really don’t even know what that looks like.

With that knowledge in hand, you can either find someone that does know what a good marketing plan looks like to handle it for you or dig in and learn how to put together a good marketing plan yourself.

Advertising

This is also true at the end of the project when you do a post-mortem. You can look back and see where the real trouble came from and then go back to your original failure planning to see why you missed these areas. Then, the next time you start a project and plan for failure, you’re going to have a better idea of what may fail and you’ll be able to plan for it accordingly.

The longer you keep up this cycle of planning for failure, the more likely it is that your projects will succeed. The longer you keep planning for the failure of projects, the less you’ll be affected when the odd project does fail — it won’t be the end of the world.

Take a look at what you’re working on right now and start planning how it could fail so that you have a higher chance of success.

Advertising

Featured photo credit: aigle_dore via flickr.com

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

Trending in Productivity

1 5 Values of an Effective Leader 2 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 30 Practical Ideas to Create Your Best Morning Routine 5 Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next