How do you stay motivated when you’ve undertaken a huuuuuge project? How do you stay focused when you know you’ve got months and months of unsexy slogging ahead of you? How do you stay away from Netflix and string cheese and keep your eye on the proverbial prize?
I asked my friend Katie these very questions when she told me she was writing a book
. Katie’s a lifestyle designer
so if there was ever someone who understood how to accomplish big things without hating your life, it’s her! Luckily for us, she agreed to share her wisdom. Take it away, Katie!
In early 2015, I announced to my audience that I was writing a book and would publish it later that year. It was huge goal on a seemingly tight deadline. After the book was published, people told me over and over again how impressed they were that I’d set out to undertake this enormous project and then just did it.
Oh, if only it were that simple.
While it might have looked easy, I’d actually worked hard to create a well thought out, strategic plan that allowed me to do this in a very short amount of time. Said plan goes way beyond I’ll write 2000 words a day and then I’ll be set.
If you’re about to take on huge project and you want to stay motivated these tips will help! And these will help you manage almost any big project – writing a book, taking a huge trip, or even updating a room in your home!
How to stay motivated when you’re working on a huge project
1. How do you want the process to feel and what is your desired outcome?
It might seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important to identify the outcome of all of your hard work before you start.
Do you just want to finish the damn thing? Increase sales? Are you hoping the results of this project will lead to speaking requests, new clients, or a bigger job opportunity? There’s no wrong answer! The only way you can screw this up is by not answering this question.
Many, many people skip the first half of this question.They simply start working toward their end goal without considering how they want to feel. Do you want to finish fast and you’re will to sacrifice a little bit of your health and sanity to do that? Or do you want to feel joy and ease while you create your life’s work so you’re willing to push the deadline out in order to protect those feelings?
Maybe you want the whole thing to feel pleasurable and easy. Or you want it to feel well-researched, complete, and thorough. Maybe your intention is to pour your heart into it so you need to get into a certain head space to allow for that type of flow and giving.
Again, the answer is up to you, but clarifying your feelings will help you make solid, logistical plans of how you want to move forward.
2. What do you need physically, mentally and emotionally to complete this project in the way you want to, on time, with your desired outcome?
Everyone’s work style is different. Maybe you’ve never thought of what goes into your best work, but now is the time to identify it.
This project will might require extra sleep, long walks to process your thoughts, early mornings to capitalize on your most focused mental state or weekly date nights to keep you grounded and emotionally strong. Don’t discount just how much your physical state or comfort can impact your output!
While I was writing my book, I realized I needed to focus on maintaining my health with sleep, water, and daily movement. I needed extra hugs from my husband. I needed make fewer decisions than usual. I also needed most of our daily tasks to be done and out of site before getting into a focused writing zone.
Maybe you need uninterrupted blocks of time. Daily food delivery might be the thing that keeps your sanity intact or an afternoon hike might clear up the last little bits of confusion for that day. You don’t need a formal answer to this questions and you’ll probably tweak it along the way. But at the very least, write a rough list of things you know will help you succeed.
2a. How will this big project impact your regular life and what do you need to adjust? Where do you need to ask for support?
And as a sidenote, it’s also important to consider your friends and family. Most people don’t think about this until they are doing triage on their relationships, other obligations or their own emotional stability. Save yourself the pain by putting some intention and effort into these before you start.
Do you need to tell friends and family you’ll be less available for the next few months? Do you want to tell your BFF that you might be leaning on her a bit more than usual? Do you need to tell your nanny/dog-sitter/therapist that you’ll be needing their services more than usual?
You’ve planned the life aspect of your huge project! High five! Now let’s talk about the logistics.
3. Brain dump everything that could potentially be involved.
Write down everything that comes to your head that could possibly go into this project. The big parts, the tiny details, the people who could help you, the potential problems.
Sit for five minutes. Keep thinking. If you’re writing a book, your brain dump might include: writing 80,000 words, hiring an editor, hiring a typesetter, designing the cover, creating a marketing plan, designing the marketing, writing the thank you page, sharing it on social media, etc etc forever and ever.
These tasks and details don’t have to be in order, just note make note of them! The key here is to be specific; no detail is too small.
4. Break your list down into the smallest possible tasks.
Imagine yourself doing each task. Picture everything you would literally do to complete it. If you’re re-doing your living room, picture yourself moving all the furniture out, wiping the floor boards, taping off the woodwork, spackling holes, sanding the holes …. you get the idea 😉
While not particularly fun, this will help you identify the incremental steps you’ll need to take to finish the bigger tasks like writing, marketing, editing and PR. Sometimes it helps to do each category completely before moving on to the next.
5. Lastly, figure out the minimum of what you need to do by when.
Does your big project have a due date? What are the lead times for everyone working with you on this project? You’ll always want to keep these two questions in mind.
The rest is simple math. If you want to finish your writing project in a year, divide the number of words by how many days (or hours) you can devote to it. Then you’ll know how many words you’ll have to write in each session. (You might find that you need to devote more time to it to realistically finish on time.)
If you’re working with other people and they have turn-around time requirements consider those those, too. If you editor needs one week to review each chapter, when do you need to get her your work? If your designer can’t start on your site till you have your headshots and your photographer needs two weeks to process photos, when do you need to schedule your shoot?
Do this for every category of larger tasks. Honestly, figuring out the timing of everything took me the longest. Over and over I encountered this needs to be one before that scenarios and had to shift the schedule.
Even though it was a bit exhausting, I’m so glad I took the time to create a thorough schedule in the beginning. It gave me the freedom to sink into my work knowing that it would all get done on time if I stuck to the schedule.
I doubled the timelines for everything so if I struggled, someone else missed the deadlines or issues came up, I could still keep on schedule. All of this makes for lower stress, smooth-ish launches and meeting your deadlines.
Of course, no matter what your project is you still need to make time for it and do the work. There’s no planning around that.