Leadership

The 6 Steps to Conquering Those Big Projects That Drive You Nuts

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Have you ever felt like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? That you’ve embarked on some crazy mission to reach some monumental goal but, now that you’re committed, you wonder what the heck you were thinking?

Join the club. I’ve been there countless times over the years. I’d actually be hard-pressed to come up with a major project I’ve ever been involved in where I didn’t feel that way at some point.

Look, if you want to accomplish great things, you’ve got to go out on a limb from time to time. If you don’t push the envelope, what are you going to write about in your memoirs? So you pay for it with a few sleepless nights and a little stress. It’s a small price to pay if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some sort of adrenaline junky. I just like to challenge myself and feel alive. Besides, that feeling you get when you deliver the goods is indescribable. That makes it all worthwhile. Here are some tips to help you get past those “Oh crap, what have I done?” moments and make it to the finish line with flying colors.  

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Remember why you’re doing this to yourself. This is the way this sort of thing usually goes down: You wake up one day and realize there’s something big you just have to do. You fight tooth and nail to sell it and then, lo and behold, you get the green light. That’s usually when panic sets in. Just remember what was behind your initial determination. That’s real. Hold onto it and use as needed for inspiration.   

Settle down, it will get worse. If you’ve taken on a considerable challenge, in all likelihood this is just the first of many “Oh crap” moments before it’s all said and done. One thing I can tell you with great certainly: it will get worse. The closer you get to the deadline the more stressed you’re going to feel. That’s just the way it is. Settle into it. And chill out, you can do this.

Shut out all unnecessary distractions. Whatever you’ve been spending your days and nights on until this point is all irrelevant. That’s all unnecessary distraction now. You can get back to all that stuff when you’re done. Until then, your butt belongs to this project. For a time, you get to just focus on one thing. Think of it as simplifying your life. It’ll be fun. At least tell yourself that.

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Every marathon starts with planning, training … and one step. When the enormity of the task sinks in for the first time, that’s when everyone freaks out. Thing is, that’s just an illusion. It’s not as if someone has a gun to your head and you have to get it all done by tomorrow. Take time to break the project down and plan it out. Give yourself plenty of interim milestones and a little padding at the end. Get some expert advice if you need it. Then it’s just executing one step at a time. Piece of cake.  

Meet your new best friend: discipline. If you do a decent job of planning then it just comes down to sticking with it no matter what. That’s called discipline. If it isn’t in you, find it. I don’t care where you have to look but find it. It’s the one thing you will absolutely need to come out a winner when it’s all said and done. Discipline will never let you down.

Feed your body and mind. This is not the time for “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” machismo. There’s always a tendency to think you’re superhuman and forget all those little niceties like eating and sleeping but the truth is, you’ll perform much better if you take good care of yourself. That includes exercise, too. And a little fun now and again won’t kill you, especially after you hit those milestones.  

Find your own secret ingredient. For me, caffeine is a miraculous stimulant. And it just so happens to be legal, which is a real bonus. I don’t go overboard -- just cappuccinos and teas. Some people meditate. I occasionally practice mindfulness, but I still love my caffeine. Don’t listen to anyone else; just find your own secret ingredient and go for it. And remember the immortal words of John Lennon: “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright.”

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