I have a dozen projects I've been putting off (some of them for years). I suppose everybody has this problem, but I'm wondering if you have any ideas about how to get moving forward with these?
Everybody lets short-term matters push longer term projects into the background, even though the long-term things are often far more important. Let's start with why this is so often the case.
In a nutshell, our genes haven't caught up to our intellect. Your head knows that the project is more important, but your instincts make you focus on the immediate issue because a million years ago, if you didn't fix the immediate threat, you became lunch for a lion. Hour-to-hour survival was all that mattered.
Eventually, it became clear that stockpiling food now for the upcoming winter made sense, and the idea of strategic projects was off and running.
Nowadays, the daily issues usually aren't life/business threatening. Nonetheless, we naturally want to deal with what falls on our desk first. So how can you fool your natural tendencies and get projects done anyway?
Set a long-term goal: Determine a goal you want to accomplish three to five years from now. Be specific about revenue, locations and bottom-line profit. Be aggressive but realistic.
Tie projects to your goal: If a project can't be connected to a goal either the project should be shelved or your goals adjusted.
Lay out the roadmap: Which projects have to be completed before something else happens? Which can be done concurrently?
Break the project into stages, the smaller the better: Losing twenty pounds is an enormous and discouraging project. Losing a pound every two weeks feels far more doable.
Set the timing: When does a project need to be completed? When do the interim stages need to be done? If a project is a month long, the pieces should have daily completion targets. Leave a little room here.
Track your results on a big whiteboard (this is key): Do this in graphic form. Write out the tasks/targets and their schedule horizontally (the plan), and add your actual progress below. Put this list where you can't miss it.
Think differently: Whenever you have a choice, ask yourself: "Which of these tasks will move me closer toward my goal?" and always do that one. Every task you perform should pass this test.
The trick to all of this is turning long-term projects into short-term necessities.
I can hear you saying, "It all sounds great, but the real issue is time. I can't find the time to do this stuff when I'm constantly fighting fires."
That's true. You can't. But an owner's job shouldn't be about fighting fires and doing everything himself. If that's how your life feels, your first step is to build a standalone business that lets you offload tasks to your employees. I absolutely guarantee that you have more time than you can imagine-you're just spending it on tasks that can be done by others.
Jayme Dill Broudy
Construction Business Owner, December 2009