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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 August 16, 2018

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

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

    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”.

    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.

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    The power of habit

    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 six 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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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