One of the things that seems to be a constant is how busy everyone is these days. There's a reason getting to inbox zero is so elusive. Technology has helped progress us in so many ways but it has forever changed the speed of work opening us up to constant distractions and a pace that is often difficult to maintain.
While just keeping up with the daily tasks can be overwhelming, what happens when you throw a larger project that has more complexity into the mix? How do you carve out time to make sure that the bigger task doesn't get pushed out, with an ever extending completion date, as you try not to drown in your daily tasks?
I've been thinking a lot about this lately, not only as I manage my own personal workload, but also as to how it impacts our customers. Almost all of our projects fall into the larger scale, more resource intensive category and keeping things moving forward can be complicated by the fact that project participants are often struggling to stay afloat with their daily tasks and too overwhelmed to move forward with the rest.
Obviously, each situation is different but I wanted to highlight some of the ways that I stay focused on tackling and completing the bigger projects while juggling my daily workload.
- I make it a priority. If it's too low on my to-do list, it probably won't bubble up to the top. If something is going to get my attention, I make sure to flag it as a priority.
- I seek out the support of key players. If there are other people who need to be involved to help move the project forward, I reach out to them and make sure they're onboard. I need to know that the other people involved are also committed to the end result and have made the project a priority on their own to-do lists.
- I make sure the project is aligned with my company's goals. I don’t tackle things on my own, isolated agenda. My projects are part of the bigger picture and must be adding value and moving my company forward. For something to become a priority, it has been established as a key component in our overall company goals.
- I carve out the time. When planning out my week, I'll block off certain time slots for working on my projects. This is not a floating space where I can do other stuff that might come up that day that might seem more important. It's a commitment that during those times, I will focus on my projects.
- I remove distractions. All those handy little notifications get shut down so I can stay focused. No more pop-up notices every time I have a new mail message and my phone goes on do not disturb.
- I break it down into phases. A project that might take weeks, months, or even longer to complete, may be too large to grasp sometimes making the early steps seem a little overwhelming. But, every project has specific, achievable milestones so by breaking it down into these components, I can better understand the path forward.
- I do sanity checks along the way to make sure I'm moving in the right direction. Sometimes it's important to step back and re-evaluate to be sure you're still on the right track. I'll ask myself things like: Do I still have a handle on the scope? Am I making the progress that I need to make?
- I keep a log of "to do later" to free up my concentration and focus on the project at hand. I always have a scratch pad going where I can jot down "to do" items that pop into my head when I'm trying to focus on my project so I can circle back to them later and not get distracted from the task I am working on at the time.
- I celebrate success along the way. Sometimes it's easy to focus on the things that I haven't finished yet but it's important to acknowledge the forward progress that I'm making too.
I'd love to hear your tips and tricks for staying focused on larger scale projects. I'm sure other people may have their own unique strategies and I always love hearing new ideas.
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