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How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success

How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: aigle_dore via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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