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The Fast Track Past A Failed Project: 5 Steps

The Fast Track Past A Failed Project: 5 Steps

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    I’ve been working on a pretty big project — a book — for going on eight months. This week, I got word that the project had been scrapped, at least as far as the publisher was concerned. It was a pretty big let down for me: we were only about two months away from the end of the project. Since I’ve gotten word, I’ve been working through everything from shock at the news to anger at some of the other people involved. When you’re emotionally attached to a project — which can happen just because of the sheer amount of time you’ve been working on something — hearing about its cancellation can take it out of you. You get knocked down; it’s important to get back up again and keep moving forward.

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    1. Find Out The Whys

    It’s not unusual to be shocked, or even have a little bit of denial, when something happens to a project you’ve worked hard on. In many cases, you’ll probably get advice to just move on and get past it — but there are plenty of reasons to actually find out a little more about the circumstances. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to be able to avoid similar issues in the future. Such information can make the situation a little more painful in the short run, but I’ve found that if I know what happened, I get a little more closure with the whole situation. Don’t assign blame, though: even when one person was clearly at fault, you’ve got better things to do than focus on that.

    2. Resolve and Repurpose The Project

    Just because you’ve received word that a project has gotten axed doesn’t mean that you simply walk away from it. Assuming that you’re a principal in the project — that you have control over the information and resources of the project — you may be able to reuse at least certain elements of the project towards your future efforts. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to turn around and repackage the project for another client entirely. If you don’t control the project, you’ll still need to shut down the project, box up files and so on. Even if it seems like there’s no point to doing so, it’s worthwhile so that if you can restart the project or reuse a part of it sometime down the road, you can do so easily.

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    3. Profit From Your Time

    If the project really did go very wrong, you may find that your expected payment isn’t forthcoming. That sort of situation makes it particularly important to repurpose your work. However, there are certain ways to profit from your experience on a given project, despite an unfortunate ending. You can update your resume or portfolio in light of what you work you’ve done, take a look at how the project has expanded your network and even wind up with the leftover resources from the project. Taking a look at these opportunities can be a way to keep your mind on the bright side when thinking about what happened. You should expand on what you have, if possible. Maybe you can pick up a letter of reference or get an introduction for another project.

    4. Check Your Reputation

    You may not be able to come out of a failed project smelling like roses. Depending on the environment you work in, a big cancellation may become part of your reputation. With the number of people looking out for themselves in some industries, there may be a few people that decide to cover their out responsibilities by placing the blame on you. Complaining or justifying your actions won’t really help in such a situation. The best option is generally to find opportunities to prove such rumors wrong. Even if you aren’t going to start looking for a big project immediately, taking care of small projects or tasks well can go a long way towards reminding people of your skills and willingness to work hard.

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    5. Gear Up For The Next Project

    No matter how big this project was, it’s unlikely that it’ll be your last project of all time. Instead, you’ve got plenty more to look forward to both in your professional and personal life. You may as well start getting ready for the next one: that can include going out and finding another project. Even if you don’t take on another big project for your work immediately, it may be worth actually seeking out something — it’s just like getting back on the horse after a fall. Taking on a big even at your church or planning a new project around one of your hobbies can help you get past a disappointment, but there’s not a limit on the types of projects that can help you get back into your groove. In fact, deviating from the normal types of projects you find can help you move past a less-than-ideal situation much faster.

    Sometimes you can find yourself in the middle of a disappointing project — one that simply gets canceled. Even projects that look pretty good from your view point can get cut. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the situation turn into your personal bridge to nowhere. No matter how much time, effort or even emotion you have invested in the project, take the steps necessary to move on and move towards better and lasting projects.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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