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How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer 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.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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