A blog post titled “Getting things done” is the last thing I should be writing about given that I haven’t made a post in just over 2 months. Even I was surprised that it has been that long since my last post on the blog, time really waits for no man as they say. The one thing I hoped would never happen when I started this blog was for me to be stuck in writers block (a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work).
I have been involved in a number of small to medium sized projects in recent months and they are partly the reason I have been so busy and unable to give adequate focus to the blog. It only makes sense for me to share the various lessons I have learnt from these projects I have been invoved in.
The Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” has become cliché due to its overuse. This may lead to most people not paying much attention to the value of these words. A lot of people have ideas, a lot of people walk around talking about what they want to do, but very few people actually take the first step of execution. Most projects require momentum to get moving and the best way for that to happen is to actually start executing your idea. Once you begin working on something, you have gone past the greatest barrier most people face, which is an inability to start.
Set Deadlines and keep them
Once you have started working on your project, you need to have a sense of direction in terms of where you want to be at a set future point in time. Setting task deadlines and having the discipline to keep these deadlines becomes key to the success of your project. Your deadlines need to be realistic of course, there is no point setting deadlines that you know from the onset you will not be able to achieve. The inverse is also true, there is no point setting deadlines that you know you will be able to achieve very easily and will leave you sitting with no work to do. It is all about striking the right balance and I believe after doing this a few times it will become relatively simple for you to know what to expect from yourself or your team.
Keep your team small
If you are working in a team for your project, it is wise to keep your team small at the beginning of the project. It is much simpler for a small group of people to understand a shared vision than it is to get a large group of people all driving toward the same shared vision. It is critical that at the beginning of a project everyone understands and is working toward the same vision and mission. Only expand the team size once the project structure has been well defined and you feel it is absolutely necessary to start increasing in size.
Once again when working in a team it is important to ensure there is frequent communication between team members with regards to anything that affects the state of the project. Communication encourages transparency on what is happening in the project and keeps everyone on board with the current status of the project. A break in communication is one of the first signs of a failed project as people may end up working toward different goals or duplicating work other team members are currently working on.
One of my workmates, a psychologist, once told me that before you carry out any project you should ask yourself what your commitment levels are to get that project completed, on a scale of 1-10. If your commitment is anything lower than a 7 it is best to leave that project for now and come back to it at a later stage when you feel you can commit more to it. Put simply, it is difficult to achieve something that you are not willing to work hard enough for. We all have other commitments in life aside from the projects we work on, some have, family, work, other more important projects, etc. If you are working in a team for your project, you need to ensure the team members you choose to work with are willing to commit 7/10 or more to the project else they are going to be dragging the team back. I don’t have to repeat the same old cliché “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” to explain why its important to not include people who are not committed on your project.
Some people have been “Getting things done” for a lot more years than me, and you can never argue with experience, however these are the key lessons I have learnt in the last few months on the projects I have been involved in and I thought I should share.