3 steps to get started
I’m always starting 15 projects at the same time, and my plans usually fail at some point: lack of time, decreasing of my initial motivation, no budget, etc. And yet, most part of my job is about managing projects and make sure they become success… So I decided that it is time to truly manage my personal projects as well, using some of the methods and tools I use at work. This post opens a new section on the blog, dedicated to my experiments on project management in my personal bullet journal. I hope you’ll like it!
With some big changes in my life these past weeks, I’m in the mood to start a lot of new projects, and my brain is working 24/7 on new ideas and projects. I want to start knitting again, do more for the blog, do some refurbishment works in my flat, take back control over my carrier… And the list goes on. The thing is that I know I won’t be able to do all these at the same time, and prioritising is not always so easy.
To stay rational about the projects I want to do, I twisted some of the tricks I use at work and get through a 3 steps process to help me sort things out. And as always, I relied on my bullet journal and some new collections to do so!
Step 1: Total clean-up
The analysis: My brain is working 24/7 and is full of ideas and projects I have trouble to stabilize and count.
The strategy: Do a simple list of all these ideas to make them more concrete and get an overview.
When we start a creativity workshop at work (doing a brainstorming or any creativity work), we usually start with a total brain clean-up. It’s basically the same principle than the “braindump” collections: the aim is to stabilize all the ideas and concepts that are keeping the brain busy, and start with a fresh mind. It can seem very obvious, but jotting down all the ideas on one single sheet of paper is really the key to get an overview and be able to draw a hierarchy among the list.
In contrast to a creativity workshop, my goal here is not to seek for new ideas, but the need of taking a step back and clearing my mind is the same. So before starting any new project, I made a simple list in my bullet journal with all the projects and activities I want to invest my time in, creating a new collection. This list gather all kind of projects, small projects that can be achieved in one day and big ones with a much bigger effect on my life. When I started this list, the small projects came first and as my brain got rid of these interferences, I started to remember of the big ones.
Step 2: Prioritizing
The analysis: I want to start a lot of projects at the same time, being aware that the burn out is right around the corner if I give myself too much goals.
The strategy: Ranking the projects to draw a hierarchy among them, making rational choices and setting realistic goals
Once the total clean-up is done and the list is complete, it’s time to get into serious stuff and to rank the projects with objective criteria. For this second step, I set aside all the “small” projects and focused on the ones that need more time (but I’ll get back to them later).
To help me sort things out, I drew a table with 3 sections: in the first column, I just wrote the name of the project, the second section is about how I would benefit from the project, writing the answer to the question “why should I do this project”. The third ans last section is dedicated to the ranking of the projects: I gave each project a mark from 1 to 5 on 4 criteria.
The criteria can be different depending on the context. In this case, it was all about my personal projects and I defined the 4 criteria so that I can take my constraints and feelings into account:
- resources needed: this criteria includes both time and money that is needed to complete the project (1: lot of time and money needed / 5:very few time and money needed)
- expected benefits: it can be of course profit but in this case, it’s more about how it can improve my well-being or help me grow (1: small benefit / 5: big benefit)
- motivation: it’s the only subjective criteria in this list, and it is meant to measure my willingness to work on the project (1: small motivation / 5: big motivation)
- urgent situation: this one is a “on/off” criteria. If the project needs to be started in the following weeks, I add 5 points to the total at the end of the process.
The key for this step is to define the relevant criteria, depending on the success factors of your own list of projects. The criteria can of course change from a person to an other one, but all the projects must be assessed following the same rating grid. I then just add the ratings for each project to get the final score and rank them. The projects with the highest score are the ones I’ll focus on first.
Step 3: Be ready
The analysis: Having a list of projects with priorities is a good start, but it’s not always obvious to know where to start them, and the main risk is to waste energy initiating things before taking time to think.
The strategy: Prepare the project kick-off before taking action and asking myself some question to draw a first action plan.
Starting a new project can be pretty scary (especially when you take some risk doing it), but it’s also super exciting. For my part, I’m always in a state of euphoria as soon as I’m starting to explore some new idea or project! And sometimes, I just forget to take reality into account when making my plans and asking myself a few questions before taking action.
For each of the projects I rated, I created a new collection in my bullet journal. The goal is to answer 3 simple questions to be better prepared before starting anything.
Why do I want (and should I) do this project?
This first section is meant to explore the motivations I have to complete the project, and dig dipper into them. Beside the obvious benefits, I also try to think about the other advantages the project can bring to me (learning new things or skills, meeting new people…). For instance, if I’m considering sewing a new piece of clothing, the main benefit for me will be to spend some time working with my hands and crafting something concrete, the secondary benefit is to add something new to my closet (and a third one could be to make my fabric stock decrease…).
What can stop me doing this project (and how can I avoid this issue)?
The second question is key to turn the project into a success. The goal is to think of any issue that can cross my way (from the beginning to the end of the project): budget, time, skills, availability of someone else or of any other resource (tool, car…)… All the factors that can threat the project need to be identify.
For each of this potential issue, I then try to think of a strategy to avoid it or make it less likely. For instance, if one of my project requires a large budget that I can’t afford, I’ll try to think of DIY alternatives instead of paying someone to do it, buy second hand items… The aim is to look as far as possible at all the aspects of the problem and try to think of some preliminary solutions.
What do I need to do before starting it?
In this last section, things are getting concrete, as it aims to create a first action plan. The goal is to list the first tasks I need to tackle before starting, or if everything’s ready, the first steps of the project itself. The idea here is not to make a master plan of the project from A to Z, but to focus on the tasks that will help me address the problems identified above.
The last part of this action plan is a “due date” for the project: it’s an approximative date on which I want the project to begin, depending on the priority order and some external factors (registration deadlines for instance).
Do you remember the “small projects” I previously set aside? I didn’t forget about them! I just created a master task list about them and it will be one of the collections I’ll refer to when setting up a new month in my bullet journal!
Now that I’ve a pretty good list of projects with a priority order and first actions plans, the next step will all be about setting some spreads and tools to track progress. I hope having some tracking tools will help me pushing myself to complete some of these projects beyond the first blast of motivation!
The next post in this section will then be dedicated to these tools and the way I synchronise these big plans with my day by day organization system! (Beware, printables alert is on!)
– Leuchtturm 1917 : Medium, softcover, dotted
– Erasable Muji pen (0,4)
– Muji pencil and ruler
– PaperMate Flair M, black