How I’ve said no to bad projects: The IN2RST method

A great method for sifting through the work you want vs the work you need.

Human beings are great at making emotionally charged decisions. In some cases this drive is an essential part of life, but, as many have noted, it can also be a great inhibitor to making good, well thought-out and logical choices.

The IN2RST (or INRRST method if you prefer) is a great way to analyse if and why you should take on a new project, client, course, or career. I’ve used this method over the past couple of months to help overcome some of the hurdles associated with big (and sometimes small) decisions.

The method focuses on (you guessed it) an acrostic with six core areas namely: Interest, Needs, Responsibilities, Role, Sacrifices and Term.

It’s important to be honest with yourself throughout the process— having said that, let’s dive in:


What is my interest in this project?

Hopefully, for at least some reason, you have either an interest or investment in the project, whether it be monetary, creativity or socially driven, this is important to recognise upfront and can often be multi-layered such as:

“I really want to work on Susan’s website because she’s a good client, plus I could use it for my portfolio and, to be honest, I could use a little extra cash”.

The main purpose of this is to side step most of the top layer obvious stuff and really dig into why you want to do the project — are you invested in the project because you feel obligated to it, or because it provides you with satisfaction?

Try not to focus too much on money here (unless the only reason really is money — which should be a red flag on its own).


What need am I trying to fulfil here?

“Needs” focuses on what we’re looking to get from this project and ties in to the “Interest” step above. If our interest in the project is socially or obligatorily driven, then we need to understand what need we’re trying to fulfil by doing it. Try not to be too philosophical here; the purpose of this step is simply to decide if the need and interest clash, or have any relation at all.

An example of this could be something along the lines of: “I need to increase my client portfolio and exposure because I/we need more expertise in a given area”

If the need you’re actually trying to fulfil has nothing to do with your investment or interest in the project, then perhaps we should consider giving this one a miss.

There’s little point in pursuing a project without a mutual need and interest intersect, otherwise you’ll end up needing money and having no interest in the project which leads to dissatisfaction in the long term.


What responsibilities do I have to myself?

Responsibilities are all about you.

We need to ask what responsibilities you have to yourself in the long term, what is important to you? A sprinkling of inner reflection goes a long way.

The purpose here is to rely on what you see as “a successful you” to guide the decision. If you don’t see the project providing a stepping stone to the responsibilities you have to yourself, then it’s an obvious indicator that it’s for selfish reasons (ironic, I know).

It’s important not to sell yourself short, add a dash of long-term life goals, and season with a generous helping of honesty.

You might be saying: “But I have a responsibility to myself to live comfortably and that involves selfish things like having money”. You’re right, but at any point the money could run out, and if not, your identity in it. There’s no shame in admitting that a project is money driven; however, make sure that’s not all it’s about — if it is, then perhaps the reflection against your needs could provide insight.


What role I will be playing throughout the project?

It’s important to ascertain if you’re taking on too much in an area where either your role is actually an amalgamation of other roles, or if you’re simply under or over qualified for the position.

An example of this reflection would be: “I’d need to liaise with the client, manage my team, secure the finances, do some of the work, ensure the deliverables are met and secure future opportunities”.

This is especially important where you’re the senior “go-to guy” for the task; if so, you need to weigh up whether or not your role is perhaps out of your league in terms of ability or time allocation (we’ll cover this one in a subsequent step; however it also plays a big part here).


Will I be sacrificing too much?

Let’s agree that work = sacrifice, so no matter how you look at this task you should be sacrificing at least some of your time/finances/leave/family responsibilities, etc.

The purpose here is to decide if you’re sacrificing too much against the aforementioned role weighed up against the interest and needs.

This for me is usually a tough one to measure up, specifically because we’re conditioned into sacrificing huge amounts of time and or finances to achieve sometimes relatively small results.

It’s important to weigh up if this is actually something you’d normally be willing to do in isolation against the rest of the IN2RST results.


How long am I willing to work on this?

Term is all about understanding how long you’re willing to actually do the project until the wheels will start to fall off. This serves as a sanity check against projects that are selfishly driven from either the client’s or your side.

If you’re admitting that it’s such a tedious task that you’d be willing to sacrifice the time of a stressful role to achieve your needs with no outer interest in the project, but only for a month or so before you lose interest completely, then this should serve as an obvious indication not to pursue it. The converse also applies though; if you’re willing to work on it indefinitely with high interest and low sacrifice, it could also be a good time to reflect again your responsibilities to make sure you’re not selling your growth short.

You’ve probably already noticed that none of the questions are mutually exclusive and the answers unveiled in one naturally seem to bleed into another — that’s actually an important part of the process. Remember that all of the points need to work together to provide clarity.

As much as the method provides a framework for decision making, you’ve also got to allow for the unique combination that suits you as an individual. For some, the “Interest” section weighs far less than “Responsibilities”, or perhaps the “Needs” are not nearly as important as the“Sacrifices”. However you choose to weigh up each section is up to you.

Keep a close eye on your actual vs initial assessment of your IN2RST throughout the process to see if anything has changed, as the project evolves — and as you evolve with it, so should your understanding of your IN2RST in it.

Hopefully the IN2RST method eases some of the anxiety and indecisiveness when considering a new engagement, project, client or even career.

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