So, you’ve started a new project. And it’s gaining some traction. And now that you’ve validated your idea, you want to make sure that you stay with it until it’s finished.
But distractions abound. Ideas overflow. Information overwhelms. And at every turn, you feel as though you could be sidetracked.
Staying focused isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t take much for frustration to set in.
Here are some tips on staying with an idea until it’s finished, instead of ending up with another unfinished project that sits on your hard drive.
Identify the Scope of the Project
I’m often surprised to find that even though creatives have started a new project and have found some traction with it, they haven’t defined the scope or extent of it.
No wonder so many of us end up going on a long, circuitous journey.
You need a clear goal, an objective, or a finish line for your project. Even milestones would help.
Because you could end up working on your project for a virtual eternity, never recognizing when it’s done, or when it might be good enough to publish.
So many of us assume that we will know when we have “arrived,” when we don’t even stop to celebrate the small victories we experience along the way.
Trust me when I say you will have no idea when you’ve “arrived” if you aren’t already celebrating.
You must have a clear picture of what “done” looks like, so you can work towards it, and feel like you’re making real progress.
I would not have completed by first book, The New Music Industry, if I hadn’t identified the scope of the project. And I’m glad I did because The New Music Industry has outsold all my other books combined.
By the way, making deadlines for your projects, even if they are artificial, is a focus hack all its own.Making deadlines for your projects, even if they are artificial, is a focus hack all its own. Click To Tweet
Gamify the Process
You could also think of this as a reward and punishment system, but I don’t like the word “punishment,” and frankly, creatives and creators seem to do a good job of beating up on themselves already.
The idea would be to attach a score to the activities you do. For instance, if you’re writing a book, writing 1,000 words in a day would earn you 10 points. If you were working on an album of music, spending an hour writing songs would earn you 10 points. And so on.
Come up with a “minimum” score you’d like to meet on a given week or month. And when you exceed it, reward yourself – for instance, you could take yourself out for a nice meal.
If you do not meet the score, then put a consequence in place. Maybe 50 pushups or something like that. But it must be something you’ll do, or there’s no point in having consequences.
Now, let’s be real. Those 50 pushups might be painful, but they’re still going to benefit you. So, while the reward is much more alluring, the consequence teaches you the value of going to work on what matters. Either way, you end up winning.
Given the alternative between going for a nice meal and doing pushups, though, I’d probably choose the meal every time (I’m also a serious foodie), and work towards exceeding my minimum score weekly.
And don’t forget – there’s always a cost to leaving things unfinished. The greatest cost is the damage done to your self-esteem.There’s always a cost to leaving things unfinished. The greatest cost is the damage done to your self-esteem. Click To Tweet
To some, this will sound draconian, absurd, or ridiculous.
But author Dan Kennedy is so vigilant about his time that he does not spend any time on social media or email. He asks prospects and clients to contact him via fax. And his computers at home are not connected to the internet. They are glorified typewriters.
I’m not saying you need to adopt Kennedy’s system. But you might want to set some hard boundaries in place as you’re working on your project, as you’re bound to get it done much faster in a distraction minimal environment.
You could turn notifications off on your phone. You could even leave your phone in another room while you’re working. That would be a good place to start.
What else could you do to ensure you’re working during the time you’ve set aside for work?
Could you block certain websites in your browser? Could you put a song on repeat? Could you clean up your desktop or downloads folder so it isn’t so messy?
There are many things you can try. It’s just a matter of what works for you!
By the way, if you’d like to learn more about Kennedy’s methods, have a read through No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs (affiliate link).
Say “No” to Shiny Objects
Sometimes, there are no tricks or hacks powerful enough to help you stay focused. Sometimes, it’s a matter of saying “no” more often.
It has been my experience that some creatives and creators are more sensitive than the average person and find themselves succumbing to guilt and pressure. They have a hard time saying “no.”
I’d suggest having a read through Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek (affiliate link). If that book doesn’t reprogram your mind regarding opportunity (and opportunity cost), I don’t know what will.
One of my key takeaways from Ferriss’ book is that most of the communication you receive is not urgent. Sure, the senders will put urgency on it, but whether you add their link to your website is not a life-or-death matter, no matter how many times they cry fire.
And I don’t know about you, but most emails I receive are along the lines of:
- Let me guest post
- Add our link to your website
- Promote our thing
- Let us be on your podcast
- We have a new study we’d like you to look at
- Buy our SEO services
- And so on
Rarely do I receive communication that’s personalized, relevant, and value-adding to me.
Yesterday, I shared about how you should never let your clients make your schedule for you. Don’t let your inbox make your schedule either. Because it’s just a to-do list other people can add to.
Leave time in your schedule for the things that make you come alive. And deny or put off the things that get in the way of you working on those things.Leave time in your schedule for the things that make you come alive. And deny or put off the things that get in the way of you working on those things. Click To Tweet
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do everything perfectly. Trust me when I say I have created my own Duke Nukem Forever (Back on Solid Ground and Flashes of Elation come to mind – an unfinished album and book). If you don’t know that reference, Google it. 😉
The good news is I’ve also managed to release 26 songs and five books. Not bad, all things considered.
You may lose excitement for a project while you’re working on it. That’s normal. After the initial excitement has subsided, you will enter the “hard middle.” And some grinding out will be necessary. But once you get through it, and near completion, you will start to feel excited about your idea again. Observe that pattern, and then you can be in control of it.
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