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. :)

 

More Thoughts on Procrastination

KBB_reading_nookA little while back I wrote about some of the ways in which procrastination is a healthy device that allows us a little more insight as to how we work, why we work the way we do and some of the ways we an embrace procrastination as a natural part of the workflow process. Intrigued? Don’t wait until later to read it. (You can find it here.)

As much as I believe in the potential for procrastination as a useful tool to work smarter instead of harder, there is a fine line between embracing the practice and being overwhelmed by it. When a procrastination habit becomes harmful, it’s probably time to reconsider the reasons behind it and develop new strategies to make sure we meet our deadlines on time, while still on our terms.

There’s no scientific method to my strategy to combat procrastination, but the solutions I’ve found seem to fall into three categories.

Determining the Problem

A doctor can provide relief for certain symptoms; however, he or she cannot treat you until the root cause of the illness has been determined. In a similar fashion, until you determine why it is that you’re procrastinating on a certain task you cannot begin to find a true solution to your bad habit. You’re simply putting a band-aid over the problem. Do some real soul-searching to try and figure out why you’re doing this to yourself.

Are you suffering from a lack of motivation? Set goals, determine rewards and build patterns into your daily life that help you work towards the completion of your project.

Having trouble keeping focus? Shorten the blocks of time you plan to focus on a certain task. More often than not even committing to just ten minutes of performing a certain task can encourage us to focus on it longer. Still not working? Take notes on your energy levels and amount of focus throughout your day and adjust your schedule accordingly. Try saving the more difficult or complicated tasks that require the most of your attention during the times when your alertness is at its peak.

Deleting the Unnecessary

Often our schedules are overflowing with multiple commitments, social engagements and various other personal and professional activities. It’s easy to procrastinate when feeling overwhelmed or stressed so when yourself letting important things slide because of an overcrowded schedule, it may be time to decide what activities and commitments to delete. Can you get by on less shift at your part-time job? Can you get away with dropping an elective? Any commitments, whether they be personal, professional or academic should be dropped if they become toxic, harmful, unreasonably demanding, unnecessarily involved, not enjoyable, or unhelpful towards your goals. If certain tasks are getting out of hand, see how much work you are able to delegate to colleagues, co-workers and friends, even if the arrangement is only temporary. We all need breathing space.

Discipline thyself.

It’s easy to lose focus when there’s no focus to your schedule or work. Blocking off chunks of time and forcing yourself to commit that time to working on certain tasks may be the actual motivation to get things done. If work is ill-defined or poorly organized, it can be off-putting to try and follow a task through to completion, and sometimes even possible to start. Evaluating energy levels, eliminating distractions, and creating environments conducive to our own unique productivity needs are all great ways to enjoy work more, and dare I say make it easier?

If procrastination is a sickness then it’s one we all suffer from, but hopefully by gaining an understanding as to why we do it, we can gain more insight as how to prevent it but for now, hopefully we’ve found our prescription.

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Have you been procrastinating on commenting on this blog? Putting it off can be bad for you and your health. Share your strategies on how you got your life back on schedule by commenting below. Still too shy? I’ll keep your thoughts a secret if you send them to be at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.