Nobody likes falling behind on a big project and letting their boss, colleagues, customers or clients down. If you find yourself chronically playing catch-up, it’s time to reevaluate why this keeps happening.
1. Your Brain Engaged The Planning Planning Fallacy
Thanks to this cognitive bias, we often radically underestimate how long a project will take. At the beginning or during planning, we’re excessively optimistic about what’s possible in a single day. It’s not all bad news though. The power of the planning fallacy can diminish over time. While we might underestimate how long a project will take, we can also underestimate how much we can accomplish within a year.
2. You Didn’t Impose A Constraint
A constraint is a great way of becoming more creative and effective. Tesla, for example, used the constraint of lacking a dealership network to sell directly to consumers.
If you’re worried about scope creep, consider imposing a cap on the amount of people, time or money you’re willing to spend on a project before shipping a minimum viable product for feedback. Iterate later.
3. You Didn’t Focus On One Key Area
As an entrepreneur, you might have dozens of ideas each day and want to act on them all. The most productive people have a bias for action. While this way of working helped you start a business or win a promotion, it won’t help you get a project over the line. Instead, pick one core idea and focus on that. Put everything else to one side.
4. You Didn’t Set Two Deadlines
A deadline is a useful tool if used appropriately. A good internal deadline should give you and your team something to strive for, provided it’s realistic. Just ask Elon Musk. When a deadline draws near, your team should gain momentum and try to hit it. Even if they don’t, an external deadline will help everyone avoid letting customers or clients down.
5. You Didn’t Set Your Priorities In Advance
You might have lots to do every day, but it’s a simple fact: Only 20% of your daily tasks lead to 80% of the results. Did you ask yourself, “What’s my most important task for today?”? Your answer should relate to a key project. Ideally, focus on this task alone for at least one hour before the normal workday takes over.
6. You Weren’t Explicit About Why The Project Was Important
What’s the purpose behind this big project? Do you want to earn a promotion? Are you trying to increase income in your business? Or is it a passion project?
Figuring out why you want to do something in the first place will help you keep motivated even when you feel like stopping. If it’s a team project, ensure your team understands what delivering means for them and the company.
7. You Forgot To Track Your Progress
One of the twentieth century’s most noted management consultants, Peter Drucker, often argued, “What gets measured, gets managed.”
Writers track their word count. Sales executives track their calls. Marketing executives track metrics like leads generated. So ask yourself, “What’s the key metric related to my project?”. Then keep score every day in a visible way.
8. You Didn’t Allow A Margin For Error
A project brief might change. A key team member could quit. A tool might stop working. And costs spiral. It’s natural for something to go wrong during a project, particularly if it’s a long-term one. So allow a margin for error in time or resources.
10. You Didn’t Delegate
You might be an exceptional performer in one or two areas of your business, but it takes a team to succeed at anything big. Elon Musk didn’t design and ship the Model S alone.
Did you delegate anything you shouldn’t spend time on? And did your business outsource tasks outside of its area of expertise?
11. You Said You’d Do It In A Minute
Procrastination has a bad reputation. A break can help you refocus on your work, but you can’t put things off indefinitely.
Saying you’ll do something in a minute, in an hour, later or tomorrow is a surefire way not to do it at all if you don’t commit. Remember, getting started is often harder than maintaining momentum.
12. You Feel Like A Break
Perhaps you do. Maybe you’re burned out, tired or exhausted. The old French saying, “Reculer pour mieux sauter,” translates to, “Step back in order to leap forward.”
If you find yourself running out of time, give yourself a little break, and then dive right back in.