I’ve been project managing my life this month.
I have big things planned for 2018. I want to start a podcast, write a book proposal, and launch a second blog. Those are three REALLY BIG GOALS. And it’s not even my whole list.
And here’s my biggest fear: That I get to December 31st, 2018, without accomplishing any of it.
Here’s a lesson I fought so hard to learn over the past five years: It is SO HARD doing all the things we want to do.
When I worked in an agency, I planned the office Christmas party with my colleague Julia. The executive team, as you can imagine, did not place a party in the top eighty-five on their priority list, but of course, had to have a hand in it anyway. So Julia and I got the fun job of RESCHEDULING EVERY SINGLE MEETING THRITY-NINE TIMES.
I gave half as many fucks as Julia on getting this thing planned, and thought it a complete waste to chase two grown men around an office. But whenever I asked why we should bother prepping for a meeting that would, undoubtedly, get blown off or rescheduled, Julia screamed, “BECAUSE OTHERWISE IT WON’T GET DONE!”
And therein lies the answer, friends: If you don’t block it off, it won’t get done.
When I think of how many deadlines we pushed at that agency—deadlines for clients who paid us—it’s undeniably depressing to think about how frequently things get “pushed” in our own lives.
Like, LOOK at me. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a significant other. I don’t own a SUCCULENT. My only responsibility to this universe is that I keep me and myself alive and try not to kill anyone else in the process. And I don’t accomplish half of what I want to do in a day.
I actually don’t know how people have children.
Once I accepted that yes, not finishing (or starting) these huge projects is a very real possibility, I had one thought: This CANNOT happen.
That’s what happened to me in 2017. This year, it wasn’t an option.
I called my friend Cam, who worked at the same agency as me and Julia. Cam is a project MANAGER, in every meaning of the phrase, and the single most organized person I have met on planet Earth. Cam and I walked from Logan Circle to U Street and back again, me asking questions and her going through all her tips of how she organizes her day breaks up a Mt. Saint Helens project into small, delightfully manageable steps.
Block off time for projects that work best FOR those time blocks
The first thing Cam had me do was use my day to my advantage. Cam, like me, is an independent contractor and therefore works from home. However, unlike me, she is happily married and therefore gets precisely ZERO things done on her computer before her husband leaves for work. So, from the time she wakes up to mid-morning, she focuses on chores and errands.
The most precious time for me is my mornings. I would rather wake up at six and start typing than work past six at night. Early mornings are when I’m most creative. And since most of my goals have some sort of writing component, this is when I write. I blocked off 7AM – 10:30AM every single day to write SOMETHING—a book proposal, a blog post, a business post, or something else. That is MY time.
The second thing Cam told me to do (and I know this will warrant a lot of well no shits from most of you) was write down a plan.
Cam actually PAID for project management software; I opted for the free plan in Asana. But I WROTE IT. I made a project for all my client projects, then a project for each one of my goals. I threw out wild guesses on how long each task or milestone would take me, and set deadlines.
Deadlines that, God willing, I will not push.
And last but not least, she told me to practice forgiveness.
If you know Cam, you understand this was a SHOCKING piece of advice to hear. Cam is the girl who stayed at the office ‘til eleven multiple nights a week, refusing to leave until every last task was completed.
“When I started my website,” she told me, “I thought content was the most important piece. So I set a goal that my copy would be done by this week. However, once I started writing I realized the web pages I laid out didn’t match what I wanted to say. So, I stopped writing and worked on my template.
“Was that a waste of time? No. I NEED to do these things. So just practice a little forgiveness with yourself when you need to revise the plan.” It’s fine to push a task, only when you realize it can’t start until a different task gets completed.
If you don’t make your personal project a priority, it will not get done. It just won’t.
You need to block off your calendar (and yes, I do block off “fake meetings” on Google Calendar to give myself time to write). Then don’t let ANYTHING interfere with that time.
Block off time for a project, make a plan, and practice forgiveness when the plan gets revised.