What is a Project Anyway?

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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.

KBwB-BFlower-50I’d love to hear more about what a project means to you. Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. 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. :)

 

When Those Lists Keep Adding Up

KBB_stack_of_filingAlmost everyone I know has a to-do list. Think about yours. It could be on a piece of paper, scrunched in a corner of your daily agenda, or neatly outlined on your Smartphone. Maybe it’s just in your head as you scramble to get out the door to do your errands.

No matter what form, we all have our ways of prioritizing all of the things we need to do in order to keep our businesses, homes or lives in order.

Now I want you to think about your list. If you’re like most people, your list is probably a mile long. You’re bound to forget one of those things, or worse: you might put it off.

Thought about that list? Great. Now ask yourself, what’s the one thing that’s been on here forever? What do I just keep forgetting? What to-do just seems to keep on slipping through the slats? You might have to dig a little deeper to think of that one thing but once you have it, grab onto it mentally and don’t let go.

Is this an exercise in procrastination? (No. I was going to write a post about that but I think I’ll just do it later.) It’s actually proof of something that I’ve only learned very recently.

To-do lists don’t work.

Now don’t immediately start composing that nasty email to me, because to-do lists have helped out a ton of people, myself included. But all too often we fall into the trap of using a to-do list as a brain dump. We write down every single little thing we’ve ever thought of doing ever, instead of just keeping it short, sweet and limited to a certain category of things.

People familiar with the practice of GTD (Getting Things Done) will remember how creator David Allen suggests organizing several to-do lists in order of context.

I have to admit that had been something that has helped me tremendously. My lists are shorter and I am much more selective about each of the items that go on each list.

This doesn’t mean you have to become a hardcore GTD convert in order to gain something from this practice. The next time you write down a to-do list for all of the errands you need to run on Saturday morning, limit the things you need to do to just that Saturday morning. If it’s not an errand, don’t add it to the list. If you do, you run the risk of losing your memory’s grip on that item and the task will never be completed. Not much of a to-do list, right?

It may seem like common sense, but you’d never include items to pick up at the grocery store on a list of things to do to clean your garage. So why would you do any of that to your to-do lists?

Try at least grouping your to-dos into like categories. You may even want to try separating those to-do lists by context, rooms in your house, or by home improvement projects. Whatever floats your boat!

Who knows? You might actually end up getting some of those nasty tasks crossed off.

KBwB-BFlower-50How many items do you have on your to-do list? I’d love to hear about yours as well. Drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below. Together let’s get them done! Looking for other projects to keep you busy? I’ve been sharing all of mine here.