What do you do when a project relies mostly on your ability to get all the work done? On your solo projects do you dive in and immerse yourself in it until it’s completed perfectly or do you take it one small step at a time and whittle away at it seemingly forever? These are the two extremes of handling projects that are solo acts, the real key to being satisfied with the results is moderation, an approach that is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
Right now I have several solo projects that fall so I have to find the right balance in each one. The biggest of the projects is one that I personally would love to have done tomorrow. That is totally unrealistic and I would be so burned out nothing else would get done during and after while I recover. To help me keep things in perspective, I’ve taken some time to remember how to divide up the work in practical chunks. These ideas are:
1. Know the deadline. When do things really need to be completed? Obviously some things have hard deadlines, while others are in the category of “when you get time”. For the things that have no hard date, set a target date that is realistic for you given all that is on your plate.
2. Keep deadlines realistic. If you are setting a target date for some of you projects make sure you stop and think hard about when you will be able to finish it. Setting a date too soon will push you too hard and setting a date too far out may keep you from making any progress.
3. Divide up the work. Stop and take a hard look at what has to be done, how you will divide it up, what gets done first, second, and so on. Plan the steps; this can be formal or as simple as making a list of all the steps to get it done.
4. Set milestones. Once you divide up the work you can set target dates for each step along the way. Again make sure they are realistic and can be accomplished by that date. This will help you track your progress towards the goal.
5. Get help. If you can get help, take it. Your days will be more manageable if you have someone to share the load with when possible. Help is not always available, so use it when it is.
6. Take a break! To keep you energy up, along with your productivity, take some time to step away from the project. When you are totally immersed in a project you lose perspective and your productivity. It becomes a grind that will wear you down too fast.
7. Celebrate your success. When you have gotten it all done, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have accomplished. It’s good to sit back and rest on your laurels, at least for a short amount of time. Recognizing what you have done and enjoying the sweet taste of success will energize you to complete the next project.
Solo projects can be very rewarding while often being the most challenging. Taking the time to plan the work first can help make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
How do you avoid burn out on solo projects?