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The Secret To Completing An Overwhelming Project Effectively

The Secret To Completing An Overwhelming Project Effectively

You’ve just been assigned a monster project at work or school.

You’re feeling a bit intimidated and rightly so…there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

Where do you begin? How can you ensure your work moves along at an even pace and doesn’t fall through the cracks?

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Here are seven tips that will help you take on that huge project like a productivity pro!

Plan slowly to move quickly.

Making plans before starting work on a project is always a good idea. An even better idea is to take the time to develop well-thought out and solid plans. Don’t just slap down a brief three-sentence plan and get to work! Get to the heart of your project by thinking about all the different components involved, including goals, targets, deliverables and tasks. Write down the general stages or sections for your project, and then work your way down to specific tasks. Create a first, second or third draft of your plans as necessary. The more thorough you are in your planning, the easier and quicker it will be to execute each specific task or item in future.

Build-in time for testing and reviewing.

Working on any project is difficult enough and you certainly don’t need the added stress of trying to find time for your project when you’re in the thick of things. As you develop your project’s plans, be sure to include time for you to test, review, proof and finalize your work or materials. Depending on the length and scope of your project, you may need to add in a couple of extra days, weeks or months. Even if you don’t use your time buffer for testing and reviewing purposes, you’ll still have the luxury of using this time to take care of any other loose ends related to your project.

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Define and accept when something is good enough.

While you should be proud of the work you produce, being overly nitpicky and obsessive about the quality of your work when it’s perfectly fine as is won’t be much help to you if it makes you miss a deadline! There really is such as thing as work being just “good enough.” Set specific guidelines as to the features or aspects your project must have as a finished project and quantify information where necessary. When your project has reached your guidelines, it’s time to stop working on it, no ifs, ands or buts.

Make a clear division of labor.

Projects can become unnecessarily complex and confusing when roles and responsibilities aren’t properly spelled out. Take into account the people who will actually be working on the project. Who are the project managers, supervisors and staff? What are their roles? What specific tasks are people responsible for? Who should people report to if there is an issue or concern? Be sure to review your notes a couple of times to make sure items are not duplicated, repeated, or improperly assigned. It might also be helpful to have someone else take a look your notes to make sure you didn’t forget or overlook something.

Ask for help when you need it.

Even the best worker needs a bit of help now and then. If you are in need of help during a project, don’t be afraid to be vocal about it! Be specific in your request including what type of help you need, when you’ll need the help, where you’ll need the help and so on. You should also be sure to keep in touch with your helpers to make sure they are completing the assigned tasks as directed and address any questions they may have.

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Keep communications clear.

Communication is key in any project. Lots of time can be wasted when information is misinterpreted, misread or misconstrued. Give instructions and directions in clear and simple terms so there’s no confusion. You should also strongly consider specifying communication methods people should use for a project, be it via in-person meetings, phone, text or email. This way, information can be communicated quickly and efficiently.

Document your progress.

You don’t have to create a full-blown status report each and every day as you are working on your project, but it is helpful to take general notes to track your progress. Write down what items have been completed, what issues came up as well as other concerns or snippets of information you’ve learned along the way. You’ll have a helpful reference tool to show you where you are in your project and how far you have to go until you complete it.

What concerns you the most when it comes to completing a large project? Leave a comment below.

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Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design via flickr.com

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

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

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.”[1]

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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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

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 6 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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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