How To Keep Going On A Lengthy Project

The other day I was struggling through a project I am working on.

It seemed to be going nowhere, and I seemed to be plodding along at an extremely slow pace, only accomplishing very small things.

Now, this is a project for me, not something someone else is requiring me to do. But it seemed like I was in a game of sorting grains of rice from a huge pile. Really boring and really looooooooong.

I began to get discouraged at how long the project was taking me…. And, I still am to some extent. I want things done yesterday.

This particular project is not something I can outsource. I know, I know, rumor has it that you can darn near outsource everything, but the truth is that this can’t be outsourced, not given my current money constraints.

Hey, I even tried to outsource various parts it to 10 VAs around the world (via Odesk) and none of them did the kind of work I was looking for.

So, I was stuck with the fact of how slow this whole thing  was going…

But then I came across a tip which I think really helped me.

You see, there are always various milestones you can set up in a big project, milestones like:

  • getting a chapter done
  • getting a section done
  • getting one of a series of videos done
  • getting audio recorded and edited
  • getting the rough draft done

Each of these can be thought of as a mini-completion, and upon achieving them, you get your momentum moving in the right direction and gain a good amount of satisfaction.

For me, I was working on something that will be in 10 very lengthy parts. I had been working on this specific part for over 2 weeks, which was about 1.5 weeks too much, and I was feeling the drag of having the project go on and on and on and on, feeling like I would never get finished.

So I simply made the decision that I was going to finish this part TODAY, even if it kills me. I simply was not going to bed or do anything else until I finished.

So, I bought some Diet Coke (something I’m actually trying to avoid), bought some snack bars (another thing I’m trying to avoid), and sat down just to finish the darn thing.

Now, I don’t like these sessions of nose-to-the-grindstone, all-out, no-stopping labor. I much prefer to go outside and enjoy the crisp, clean air of Medellin, maybe chat up some paisa girls, maybe head over to the mall to chill out.

But this time, I simply decided it was today or never for this milestone.

And the results… well, it didn’t magically reverse my lack of time management skills. I still had gaps of time where I wasn’t focused on my work.

BUT I kept returning to it again and again because I said to myself it is today or never… And I stayed up til 3:30 am until I finished the darn thing.

And now… it feels great.

Now, despite having bloodshot eyes and a ridiculous weight of tiredness, it feels like my project is moving forward again.

Now, I don’t feel like I am in the middle of a marathon where I have already been running forever but still have forever to run.

This accomplishing a small milestone by sheer commitment of will is one way to keep your long project going.

Simple FORCE yourself to finish the single, measurably separated section.

Ideally, product creation– particularly for information products– should not take you years. It should take you a matter of a few months, or even weeks. The goal is to get the product to market as fast as possible so you can begin selling it, perhaps even before you complete it. I didn’t understand this early on.

But what I do feel like I understand now is: what to do you do when you feel like your project is too large, or taking too long?

Just sit down and finish a definite part of it TODAY. And do not allow yourself to go to bed or do ANYTHING else until you finish it.

You have to FORCE it to that milestone.

FORCE it.

  • Yup, also and especially what you said about breaking it down into parts. I’m working on a book I started in January of this year, though I’d have finished in February (HAHAHAHAHA!!!) and right now looks like it won’t be done and published until early next year at best. “Ain’t this a bitch?” is the best way I could summarize the whole experience. I cannot wait until I’m done with it and it’s out.

    However…it’s worth it to me. It’s also taught me a lot, especially about the importance of persistence and endurance–I swear to god, the longer I live the more and more I think that success really just boils down to persistence, the most successful people got there by being the most persistent (among other things, of course, but extreme persistence was an absolute non-negotiable requirement).

    One of my favorite, and very relevant, sayings (from the movie Bad Boys! a well-known classical work): “Whatever it takes.” That’s it, it’s that simple: whatever it takes. That’s what you say when you’re sitting there staring at a horrible gigantic task that has to be accomplished that will require persistence, patience, and will-power you’re not sure that you possess. You sigh, say “whatever it takes”, and then dig in.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • Well said, Andrew! Thanks for the comment! 😀

  • I’ve been watching some lectures on the plasticity of the human brain and the consensus sounds like that very thing “FORCING” yourself to do things ACTUALLY helps rewire your brain to operate in the manner you’re currently forcing yourself to do.

    So when it comes to just smashing through a project, that misery your experiencing actually pays dividends if you bear with it long enough!

    Lord knows I’ve been there lol

    • Yeah… the brain seems to be more plastic than our feelings dictate, ay? 🙂