While organizing my personal projects and goals last weekend, I realized that after years of practicing and researching, I have developed a technique that helps me to organize my work well.
Not only it helps me to stay on top of my game, it allows me to concentrate more on the actual work.
It is so important to declutter your mind from planning and figuring out what needs doing, in order to actually do it.
So here it is, my technique for planning or organizing my personal projects in order to actually finish them.
1. Get A Notebook Or A Planner
It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can write down your weekly plan!
From my experience, buying an actual planner can be handy but not always the best option.
A lot of times yearly planners include multiple calendar pages, list useful phone numbers and have a dedicated section for personal contact details and even birthdays. Most of the time I end up not using any of that, which to me feels like a waste of pages I could be using for planning my projects.
Instead, I buy either bullet journals or simple lined notebooks. This allows me to dedicate as many pages as I want for the actual calendar. I also like to allot the first few pages for listing out my goals with each project – defining the what, how and when.
Every time I go into planning my week, I can look at my goals, and the steps I set out to take in order to achieve that goal, and have a bit more clarity as to what I am supposed to do.
Another option for project planning is going digital. These days, there are so many great digital planners and productivity websites (e.g. Trello and Asana), and if you find that option more feasible – go for it!
ACTION STEP: decide what kind of method you want to use for keeping organized with you personal projects, and attain those tools.
2. The ‘What?’ Of Your Personal Projects
It is important to have clarity, and know what you want to achieve. If you don’t know what you are doing, it will be hard to stay motivated during the days you don’t feel like working.
This article explains it really well.
Knowing what you are trying to achieve and why you want to do it, will help to define the steps that need to be taken in order to get there.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out from day one. It means that you are clear on which direction you want to go and what you need to do initially to get a little bit closer to reaching your goal.
Once you get through the first steps, it will be easier to define the next few steps that you can take to further yourself.
This relates very much to the next step that we are going to discuss, but before you keep on reading, here is another action you can take:
ACTION STEP:Think about your personal project – spend at least 15 minutes writing down your expectations and reasons for wanting to do it. Line out what you want to do and how it will help you in your personal life. Don’t edit yourself, just let your thoughts flow.
Once you do that, look back and see if you can extract a clear description of what you want to do. If not, spend a bit more time on this, if yes – move on to the next step.
3. Moving On To The ‘How?’
It is beneficial to lay out the steps that can be taken to pursue your personal projects as it can save time later in the game.
It is also very helpful on the days when you feel uninspired, because you will already have a plan to follow without having to think about it.
We are humans, sometimes we don’t feel like following plans and working. However, having daily and weekly goals can give you the ‘minimum work you need to do today’ to be able to rest and relax afterwards.
On bad days I find that to be so motivating, because as I know that as soon as I will finish the tasks on my list, I will be able to go back to bed!
Think about the major steps that you need to take in order to reach your goal and finish your project. If you cannot think of clear steps all the way through, think about the first few major steps you need to take, to get started.
Now, take each individual step and divide it into even smaller tasks. Each week, plan your days so you would get to work on your project every or every other day, and aim to finish one to two tasks per week.
The reason this step is so important is that the more you will plan ahead and the more clarity you will have about what and how you want to do it, the more motivation you will actually have to follow your plan.
As Benjamin P. Hardy says in the article mentioned previously, ‘rather than trying to motivate yourself, your goal should be to clarify the next few steps ahead of you’.
ACTION STEP: look at your defined project and what you want to achieve. Now, think what is the fastest way to get started and write it down. Think about the step after that – how can you move closer to reaching your goal after starting?
Try to lay down 2 – 3 major steps and divide into sub-sections – tasks that you can aim to complete.
Don’t worry about not being able to think of all the steps straight away.
Every time you are getting near the end of your list, spend some time thinking and planning your next steps that will help you to get closer to your goal. This way, you will be able to make better, more informed decisions as by that time, you will know more than when you started.
4. Defining The Timeline
This is a tricky one, as I feel like at the beginning of every project I feel overly motivated and optimistic about my actual capabilities of finishing the project.
It is important to set dates to your projects, even milestones if you see it useful. As someone at some point said:
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed up by action makes your dreams come true.”
My advice though, is to allow a bit of flexibility for yourself, and if you truly feel like in the beginning of project you didn’t give yourself enough time, or that the project became more elaborate then initially thought, extend the deadline.
It is your personal project, something that you do in your free time, so it by no means should be stressful.
ACTION STEP: think about the steps and tasks you set out for yourself thus far and how much work and involvement they require. Also, think about how many more steps you might need to finish your project – again, this does not have to be an exact number but rather a rough estimate.
Based on that, try to pencil a deadline or deadlines in your calendar for the different milestones, if you choose to have them, or the end date for your project.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you see that you are getting closer to the deadline, but you are no where near finishing it. The deadlines, together with your steps and tasks, are there to keep you motivated and accountable.
If it turns out that you need to add more steps or gain more knowledge, don’t be afraid to give yourself more time to accomplish it!
Go Ahead And Plan!
I hope that my ‘What? How? When?’ planning technique will be useful for you in developing and planning your personal projects!
Let me know what are your goals and what are your favorite tools to use for making weekly plans and achieving your goals?