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Easy Project Organization in 10 Minutes Flat

Easy Project Organization in 10 Minutes Flat

    One of the easiest things you can do when starting a new project is create a bunch of ideas. These ideas come naturally because you are so enthusiastic with the thought of something new and potentially beneficial to you or your business ventures. But, you soon see that all those ideas become incredibly hard to sift through and organize into a project.

    Project organization can seem like it takes forever, especially if you get caught “in the weeds” of the details of your project. The fact is that initial project organization, for almost any size project, can take as little as 10 minutes if you follow these simple steps.

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    2 Minutes – Define

    Take the first 2 minutes of your planning sessions to write out the goal of the project. Answer these questions to further solidify the goal:

    1. What is the purpose of the project and what will it accomplish?
    2. How will you know when you are done with this project?
    Answering these two questions is essential to organize any project. Without knowing what you are trying to accomplish and what done looks like you won’t be able to identify the right tasks and actions moving forward.

    1 Minute – Identify

    Take the next 1 minute to identify the single next, physical action of your project. If you are a GTD nerd then you know all about the power of the next action and how it can propel you to get form “I don’t know what the heck I am doing” to “one step closer to done.”

    When I say “the next, physical action”, I mean that exactly. If you need to call someone to get a quote on a new set of tires but you don’t know the number of the tire guy, then you next action would be “Google tire guy’s number”. That seems obvious, but it can also be quite subtle.

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    Rather than say my next action is to “think about ‘x’”, ‘x’ being anything under the sun, make my next action “draft 10 reasons why I want to ‘x’”. This gives you a next action that is physical and something that is accomplishable.

    It may seem extreme, but identifying your next action gives you a stake in the ground to start from. Since you identified what the project will look like when it’s done, you now have the starting point and the ending point.

    5 Minutes – Organize

    The next 5 minutes is spent organizing the next steps of your project. This is where you can become too detailed if you aren’t careful; don’t let that happen to you. Instead of analyzing why a certain task will be the best one to do after another certain task, which tasks can be parallel to one another, or what are all the major and minor dependencies of tasks and sub-projects, simply find the tasks that can be done at any time or have a natural order to them.

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    You don’t have to plan the entire project in a matter of 5 minutes, what you need to do is organize a list of tasks in a natural order to move the project past the next physical action. You can always come back and do another 10 minute project planning session to finish your project organization.

    2 Minutes – Review

    Now that you have the bulk of your project organization out of the way, take the last 2 minutes to step back and review your project. If you see any glaring things that need to be changed before you dive in or pass it off to a coworker, take care of them now. Make sure that you next action is truly a next action. Ensure that your list of subsequent actions are laid out naturally and aren’t full of awkward dependencies.

    Lastly, quickly go over the goal of the project and what will be true in your world when the project is completed successfully.

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    There isn’t anything like being able to take a large amount of ideas and snippets of actions and quickly put them together into a full fledge project in 10 minutes. It helps keep the momentum of the ideas flowing and greatly reduces the resistance between idea andaction. While this simple plan may not work for a project like “build a replica of Taj Mahal”, many of the projects that we need to accomplish for our work and lives can be organized in a matter of 4 steps and 10 minutes.

    (Photo credit: An image of a hand with a pen drawing a sketch via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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