How You Can Finally Finish Your Project
Have you fallen off the new year’s goal bang wagon? There is still time to get back on track. Here are three reasons why you should set key tasks and how it is important to get a project done.
Clarity is to keep your priority straight. By priority, keep it as a singular word. ‘Priorities’ doesn’t work. We, humans, work on one task at a time, so one task that shall be. Find one thing you want to get done and put it right in front of you, like the carrot dangling in front of the horse. Well, you do get to eat the carrot when your project is done though, so go do better than the poor horse.
This is not to say you can’t have a few things you work on the same month or day, but it can’t be at the same time, literally. Jumping from task to task takes mental energy, so the less you hop around, the faster you can get the task done. You can get by with writing in the morning and admin/other tasks in the afternoon, but not everything in the morning. Otherwise, there’s a chance you bury yourself in tasks that pop up but never reach the task you want to complete.
This clarity also means that your task should be easily understood by any random person you manage to catch on the street, they should have no problem knowing exactly how you succeeded and how you failed. Therefore, ‘writing more’ doesn’t work but write 5000 words in a week works. So take some time to hammer in your task.
There will be time to work on a different project, so pick one and let’s move on to the next reason.
Tracking is very important to evaluate how you are doing in tasks. Aim to find a way to track your progress. For writers, it is not hard, just track your word count for the day. Better, also track the time you spend typing/ writing those words. The best way to get more words is to create them faster. You may not want to actively type faster, but at least you should know how fast you type so that you can set a realistic goal for yourself. Best, even track when you are writing. This helps you find out whether you are a morning person or a night person or somewhere in between. If possible, always spend the most productive time in your day on key tasks.
3. Giving up
No, this is not meant for you to give up your key task. This is a reminder that, when you choose to do one thing, you are choosing to not do other things. If you pick video games, you aren’t writing. Everything, including video games, has its own place in your life, but you are to choose whether you want that 1000 word for the day or you want an hour of video gaming.
By default, our 24 hours are occupied by all kinds of things and tasks that needed to be done. When you are trying to put in writing or whatever new habit, you have to give something up. Therefore it is up to you to decide what to stop doing and to decide what is result you want to see.
This is not to say when you pick up writing, you are no longer playing video games for the rest of your life. But I hope you are making a conscious choice instead of going with the flow. Especially at the beginning of picking up your new key task, it is so easy to slide back to what you are used to doing. This is the power of habit and would take time for your new habit to settle.
When you give up the thing to make room for your task, don’t tell yourself you don’t/ can’t play video games; tell yourself you are going to write and experience the fantastic world and characters (sounds like another cool game, right?)
Give your time a purpose and make yourself work for what you want.
After you know why setting up one key task is beneficial to you finally getting your book was written or any of your projects done, now let’s sit down and look at the more practical side of performing the task. Below expects you already defined your task.
1. Time audit
If you can add your task to your day at once, do it. Otherwise, give yourself a week of grace (don’t slide into a month or a year though), you will mark down every minute in your day to your best effort. Look at your time chart everyday and find the time you spend on things you can give up. And without any surprise, try to do the task you wanted to get done instead.
2. Time Blocking
When you are figuring out where to put your new task, try to give it a continuous block of time instead of chunks scattered in your schedule. As we’ve mentioned before, jumping between tasks is not preferred. When blocking your time, you let yourself ease into the task and know clearly when you are going to start and when you can stop.
If you are writing, it may be helpful to keep writing for a longer period of time to keep your stream of thoughts clear. At least for me, I found it easier to keep writing instead of stopping and trying to get back into the scenes after leaving the manuscript to cool.
Sprint is a short period of time when you work with intense focus and block out all distractions. This is not a contradiction with time blocking as outlined above. Time blocking may be an hour or two when you only work on your task. Sprints are to further chop the block into smaller pieces, especially helpful when you are getting started when the longer time block feels insurmountable.
Usually, a sprint lasts less than 30 minutes, but feel free to test it out to find your sweet spot (tracking, remember?). Between sprints, you can get out of your chair and refill your coffee, but you NEVER do anything else that is not your key task. This means no email checking and no social media scrolling. Keep yourself in the time block until the designated time is up or until your task is done (you’ve defined your criteria of success, right?). Take a five-minute break and get back to the task, remember not to let your break drag into five hours (a beeping timer may be helpful).
4. Guard your time
Just because you write on your schedule you are to block out your time and write doesn’t mean other activities in your life hear it loud and clear. Other tasks and things will still try to make their way into your time block. You are the only one that can defend the time block. This goes back to the topic of giving things up. Are you going to say ‘no’ and keep your time block or are you giving up your task for the other activities?
Be very careful when you do exceptions, it is easy to slide off a cliff and take a long time to crawl your way back. Of course real emergency requires your attention, I believe you can make the decision. Just so you know, it is often easier to say ‘no’ to ourselves than to say ‘no’ to others.
Despite all effort, sometimes things do happen and pulled you away. Sometimes our minds alone can distract us. It is fine as long as you refocus and get back on track. Maybe you have to revisit your task and see if it needs any adjustment, maybe you have to pick another time to block out, do the adjustment, and keep moving.
6. Keep going on
Right, the last point segue right into this. Keep moving. As with the famous physic law, what is moving tends to keep moving; and what stopped will keep staying still. Setback happens, but try to not let it drag on you. If you don’t get the task done today, promise yourself to follow through tomorrow. Especially in the beginning, it may take some tweaking and sorting to get into the groove of finishing your task. When it feels hard or you feel unmotivated, think of why you start. (Or check out my article on motivation: LINK)
Any progress is better than no progress. So take what you learned from the setbacks and keep going. Your finished book in the future would appreciate it. And be sure to make future you proud!
You may have found out that I mentioned a lot about tweaking and changing. Finishing your project is not only about sitting down and work. It is very important, if not more important to work smart than to work hard. Once a week or once a month, take out your charts and check your progress. Are you on track to finishing? Do you spot out the time you are the most efficient? How are you going to utilize what information you gathered from all the tracking?
It all comes down to being honest with yourself, both in terms of what you want to get done and the progress. Don’t blindly follow others, but feel free to take their routine and framework as references to craft your own schedule. You are the only that truly knows what project you want to work on and what is the best way for you to tackle it.
Hopefully, this will be the year you crush your goal. Remember, when it comes down to your project, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.