Remember how when we were younger we had to do science projects? I don’t know what they looked like in your school, but in my elementary school each student was expected to submit a project to the school-wide science fair. Every year like clockwork we would line up in the office to collect our white cardboard presentation boards and then we had two weeks to complete a science project- in whichever way we chose to interpret the task. The only requirement was that we had to use the presentation board.
Looking back on it, I loved how we as students had the freedom to explore our own interests and develop a project based on skills that were unique to us. Some kids loved building models of planes, or making exploding rockets because they loved the hands-on experience of creating. I remember working on a colorful project about how rainbows are created, and how light controls the way we see color. Tell me you’re not surprised.
The problem with such a free-form assignment is that it skews your perception of what a project actually is. I used to feel that as long as I was able to give a specific name to a job ( like designing a brochure for my sister), it wasn’t actually a project, it was more like a to-do. What I didn’t realize was that the term “project” didn’t always have to describe some giant, long-term, complicated task like the science projects we used to do in elementary school. Even a job that might appear small or uncomplicated, like baking a cake for your boss’ birthday, is actually a multi-step process that involves things like choosing a recipe, buying ingredients, and cleaning the kitchen- all before you’ve even started to measure out your ingredients. That’s a project too.
I’m not trying to ruin your life by pointing out that simple tasks might actually take more than one step in order to be completed. What I do encourage is adopting the science fair approach, and keeping an open mind when it comes to defining a project. Any action that requires more than one step, more than one person, or more than one resource is a project, no matter how big or small. It’s up to you, however, to interpret how you carry it out, whether it be erupting volcanoes or coloring rainbows.
I’d love to hear more about what a project means to you. Comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe we can trade science fair project ideas. For more tips on managing your workflow, click here.
Not going to lie- I was greatly influenced by David Allen and his GTD methodology when writing this post. I don’t know him at all, but I admire his work, and my thoughts about it are totally my own. For more on what he does, click here. If you’re interested, stay tuned to the blog tomorrow when I’ll be talking about his greatest influence on my workflow! See you then. :)