Though in denial for years, I recently confessed to having Project A.D.D. and not being able to focus long enough to finish a project until there’s a looming deadline overhead. Maybe you can relate? If so, read on. If not, go ahead and make your New Year's resolutions, then skip to the comment section and tell the rest of us your secrets to getting things done.
How do you know if you have Project A.D.D.?
So many things cluttering my mind waiting to be finished. So why do I do this? Why do you do this? Why do we start projects and bounce around from one to the other? Why can't we just focus on ONE and plow away until it's done? And more importantly how do we battle this project A.D.D. and keep our New Year’s resolutions this year?
Since we’ve identified the symptoms of Project A.D.D., it might be time to explore the cause and solutions.
When I was a news editor for my college paper, I had a weekly deadline. I also had a full class schedule and was chaplain to 30 girls. How did I do it? Late nights barely making curfew and catching up homework on weekends with no social life, but the news section came out on time because I had a deadline.
Just last this month I turned in two paying freelance articles on deadline even though it seemed like I waited until the last minute to write them because of all the other pressing things in my life. I learned while pressure is not something I love, it does help me finish projects.
Solution: If you don't have a specific deadline, give yourself one and stick to it. Then tell someone you can be held accountable to and send the finished project to them.
No "To Do" List
I know when I make a “To Do” list I spend less time on social media "marketing" and more time crossing things off my list. So why don't I do it more often? Part of me thinks it might take too much energy or time to make a list, but in reality, it helps clear my mind, and helps me focus to accomplish the important things, thus saving me time.
Solution: Instead of a “To Do” list I have a three ring binder where I keep all my ongoing projects. Whenever I think of something else I need to do on a project, I write it down in the correct section. With a resource like this, I should never get off task. Then if one project becomes stalled for reasons beyond my control, I can work on another. Great advice, right? Now if only I’d be more consistent in using that binder!
Let's face it, without clear goals, how can I have the motivation to accomplish anything? Yet, even with clear goals it's not necessarily a given the task will get done. For example, I've needed to work on several scrapbooking projects for years, but there hasn't been a rush. Now with my son graduating high school, I feel the urgency to finish that scrapbook so he’ll have something to display at graduation.
Solution: Reevaluate your goals and prioritize things you want to do in your personal and professional life. What need to get done in the next week? Put those on the top of your “To Do” list.
When a project takes too long or gets stalled, I get bored. That's when I look for another project which isn't always a terrible thing. For example, when I get stalled in a writing project and need a break from the computer, I try and do some laundry or clean my office. I'm still being focused and productive, but if I start gravitating toward Facebook without a plan, then it might be two hours later with nothing to show for it!
Solution: Make a “To Do” list that has different types of projects (remember that “To Do” binder?) and plan for down time. If you like to be on Facebook when you get bored, then put it on your “To Do” list and set a time limit.
We may never be cured of our Project A.D.D., but if we remember the things that get us off task and prepare for them, I know we can be more productive.
How about you? How do you battle Project A.D.D. and what do you do to keep on task?
Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of depth. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 and her newest mystery, Digging Up Death is available now.