How to conquer intimidating DIY projects by adopting 6 reliable practices.
“The journey is long, but the goal is in each step.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Thanks to the internet and the ability to have information at your fingertips, the “do-it-yourself” method of enriching your life is here to stay.
You can dream up a kitchen herb garden, refashion an old dresser into a kitchen island, resurface your backyard patio, reconfigure and organize your basement storage area, design and assemble a garden shed, launch a new profession, chart a 30-day vacation, and coordinate a neighborhood party all by yourself.
Anything is within reach.
Regrettably, however, many of you break a sweat just pondering a new project. You equate projects with onerous exertion.
And yet, there are many people who crave projects. In fact, before one is finished, the project enthusiast is already ramping up for the next.
In this way, life becomes a journey of invigorating endeavors all strung together to create one heck of an exploration!
Unquestionably, the catalog of affairs that most of you would like to address in your lives is unlimited. Still, many remain in your thoughts and never see the light of day. Or more often, you begin your project, but it quickly falls to the wayside never to again be taken seriously.
Why do we struggle to complete our projects?
“It’s a long road from conception to completion.” – Moliere
If your well-worn approach to tackling a project is to jump in and see where it takes you, you may wind up quitting before you reach completion. It may be time to consider a new approach. Give some thought to the following common oversights to ensure the success of your next project:
- Your objective is unclear and lacks specificity.
- You haven’t fully contemplated the essential resources (money, time, people, tools, space, etc.) and knowledge to complete the project.
- Your project comes undone due to scope creep. This occurs when the project is prolonged as a result of weak parameters.
- You provide ineffective communication to those helping you with the project.
- You set an unrealistic deadline or no deadline at all.
- You avoid using a centralized planning tool accessible by all project participants. For home related DIY projects, simple paper planning documents will suffice if you prefer to avoid online tools.
- The reason for the project is not strong enough and you lose interest.
What can you do to avoid defeat?
For starters, it’s important to begin thinking of any project as a series of manageable tasks or steps. If you’re able to successfully breakdown and define each task before executing, you’ll improve your odds of maintaining consistent progress, reaching your finish line, and having fun while you do it.
But before you even reach the planning stage, ask yourself why this project matters? If your ‘why” isn’t solving a real problem in your life, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually reach the conclusion that it’s not worth the resources. If, after considering your why, you’re still 100% passionate about your endeavor, follow the steps below to ensure your success.
- Time-boxes: write down all the foreseeable steps in the project. This may require some research to be certain all steps have been accounted for. What is a step? A task that has a manageable time limit. This is called time-boxing. Thirty minutes is a manageable time-box if your schedule is busy. How your project time is boxed is discretionary, but it should contain a firm beginning and ending point. If you stay within your time-box, it will maximize your ability to maintain focus and diligence, saving you time.
“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – Cyril Parkinson
- Mind maps: if you’re having difficulty envisioning the layout of the entire project, mind-mapping is a helpful technique to use. Mind-mapping is simple and fun, especially for visual learners. It can be completed with pen and paper, or if you would like a more formal look there are many online tools available to create one. The center circle in your mind map describes the primary purpose of the project. Each circle that branches from the center circle is a step in your project. And each step has its own sub-steps.
- Planning tool: estimate how much time each sub-step will require and schedule it in a time box. If your schedule won’t permit the time needed for a specific sub-task, then further breakdown the sub-step. The idea is to commit to something long enough to accomplish something, but short enough to maximize your energy. You want to touch the project on a regular basis to keep the excitement and momentum going, without letting it take over your life. Keep in mind that the size of your time-box is influenced by the deadline date, the difficulty level of the task, and how busy your schedule is.
- Wording: how you write out your planned sub-steps matters. They should be written clearly, measurably, and should urge you to get right to it. Your wording should keep your time-box black and white – no gray. Gray indicates a need for more clarity and the potential to procrastinate further. Here is a simple example. Writing “Casters” in your time-box leaves room for gray. Whereas “Install 4 casters to bar cart” checks all the boxes. It includes an action verb, is specific, and can be measured.
- Knowledge: additional research required to complete each sub-step should be included in your project schedule. For example, if you’re unclear about how to install casters, schedule a learning session a few days before you actually purchase and install them. That way you have time to adjust for the unexpected. If a project requires extensive learning, it would be best to get that done prior to beginning the project, that way you have full awareness of everything required and can schedule effectively.
- Appreciation: pat yourself on the back after you accomplish each step in your planner. Learning new things should be fun and rewarding. So often we get frustrated with ourselves when we face challenges, as if we’re supposed to be the master of all tasks. This is self-defeating. Learning is a natural part of life. If you can cultivate a learned attitude, you’ll be much more patient and compassionate with yourself.
Each step leads to more of you.
Make no mistake, if an urge bubbles up from within you, it has purpose and should be addressed. A DIY may seem like a simple household project, but each project requires something more from within you to complete it: more knowledge, more confidence, more patience, more determination, more vision. Put simply, it requires more of what’s been hiding within you that seeks to be realized.
Could it be that a simple project is really a mini calling designed to prepare you for what’s next in your life? Are you brave enough to take it on? It is my belief that life – the word itself – implies expansion. To live fully, you must grow. To grow, you have to say yes to the journey. To be a prosperous journeyer, you must allow yourself to be up close and personal with a series of projects compartmentalized into tasks that are designed to grow you into a more capable human being.
“It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
Projects help you get beyond the idea that anything is impossible for you, because they show you over and over that nothing is unattainable if tackled one small step at a time.
Plan your next project today. And be forever in-joy.
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