I receive an advert at least twice a week from some person or company wanting to take over mowing my lawn for me. Occasionally, they knock on the door to speak with me while they are cleaning one of my neighbors’ homes and I always decline. The reason is simple: I like to do it myself. The look on their faces when I tell them this relays a sense of disbelief, which I don’t quite understand. After all, if mowing is so horrible that they can’t imagine someone wanting to do it himself, then why in the world are they doing it for a living? The truth of the matter is that I enjoy yard work because it is different from my day job in one incredibly enjoyable way: I see an immediate result.
While 3D scanner manufacturers would have you believe that results will be available immediately, the reality is that data capture is but one small portion of a project. Now that I am out of the service provider role it seems my projects are stretched over an even longer timeline. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. I actually think that I am well suited to the r&d, proof of concept, and pilot project work that I am most typically involved in. However, it took me a little while to come to terms with the fact that I can work for months without ever completing anything! Finding a sense of accomplishment while chipping away on multiple fronts wasn’t easy and I don’t think that I’m the only person that feels this way. To that end, I offer these tips that have helped me find in the middle of a project the sense of accomplishment that comes so easily when I complete a project:
- I’m the King of Checklists! When we talk about a sense of accomplishment we are, after all, talking about how we feel. If I work 8-10 hours and look at my day-planner and see a blank page I think, “What a long day.” If I do the same and my day-planner shows twenty things that I set out to do and then checked off as completed, I think, “Wow, I got a lot done today!” Same amount of work but a totally different feeling.
- You Have to Find a Project Management Tracker. I can’t keep it all in my head. I simply have too many plates spinning on different projects at the same time. I use and recommend some type of project management software to keep track of everything. I still use white boards and calendars and checklists, but they are for details – the PM software gives me the 30,000-foot view that I need to keep in mind. I am currently using Salesforce and Wrike, but I’ve migrated through several over the years as my role has changed. The key is outlining all of the things necessary (on your part) for success and chipping away at them every single day.
- Vary the Level of Detail. The PM software is so helpful in accomplishing this. I find it necessary to zoom in and out – a lot! If I’m stuck at the 30,000-ft view all day I’ll get in to the details of something so that I can actually make some head way. If I am mired in the nitty gritty details all day, it helps to back out and look at the big picture in order to maintain my frame of reference.
This also aids in keeping you from running down a rabbit hole a bit too far. There is nothing that takes away that sense of accomplishment like wasting time. We’ve all done it: You start trying to solve a particular problem and that process presents additional problems and before you know it you’ve wasted a lot of time trying to solve problems that are tertiary at best and irrelevant at worst when you look at the entire project as a whole.
- Keep a Check on Work vs. Home Happiness. This was the hardest for me to learn and I still struggle with it. I started off in a family business where there was no separation. At a family dinner, we were more likely to discuss ongoing projects than anything else. However, the success or failure of a family member’s day has nothing to do with how I felt my day went. And there is absolutely no reason for me to deny myself the happiness of sharing in their joy just because my day lacked a sense of accomplishment! When it’s all good, it’s all good. When it’s all bad, it’s all bad. But most days it’s a mixed bag and I’d rather those days be good than bad.
- Make Sure You Control Some of Your Goals. Once you’ve got those checklists and everything outlined in your PM software, take a look at the goals and benchmarks that you’ve set out for yourself. Are any of them accomplishable through your work alone? If not, make some that are. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing Project A is waiting on this technician, Project B is waiting on the client, Project C is waiting on their PM, and so on. When it happens, you feel powerless to accomplish anything, even if you have done everything you can. Typically, this is when I look for something to do to push a project across another milestone. These are the times when you need other goals that only involve you doing something like returning calls, updating marketing media, archiving data or maybe just mowing the grass.