Do you have too many projects?

by Sara Marchessault

Do you ever get the feeling that you won’t ever wrap up all of the things that are on your to-do list? Overwhelmed by your responsibilities, to the point where the idea of doing something fun or relaxing seems impossible because you just have to get all this other stuff done first?

Yeah, me too.

There are home improvement projects. End of the school year projects. The project of planning for summer. Projects at work, projects the kids bring home that have to be completed, and projects that you just want to do for fun. Maybe the scrapbook from the last family vacation or the party you’ve been planning. to-do-list1

Projects take energy and focus. They don’t all require the same degree of focus and attention, thank goodness. The project of cleaning out my linen closet takes considerably less mental energy than that of writing a blog post.

Regardless of the effort required of the task, all projects take time. And that means we have to be willing to give the time and attention a project deserves if we want to move it off our to-do list and into the realm of done-ness.

And sometimes, when we have that feeling that too much is going on, we can reign in our focus by setting up a system of support to get through our projects.

The system we set up should be the right combination of holding us accountable in some way while providing the motivation we need to make progress. Here are some ideas for project progress.

Decide on your priority projects. Sometimes we take on things that we just don’t need to do. We say “yes” to the request of another person because we think we have to. Or we care about helping them and don’t want to let them down. And that is really nice and noble.

If feeling nice and noble makes you feel good and motivates you to get that particular project done, great! Carry on and get it checked off your list!

If feeling nice and noble leaves you feeling resentful, it’s time to find another way to get that task completed, hand it off to someone else, or find a kind and professional way to back out.

In other words, say “yes” to the projects that make you feel good and “no” to the ones that weigh you down.

To do this, make a list of your projects that are lingering on your mind. This step alone might make you feel better, simply because trying to keep it all in your head is itself an energy draining practice. Give the list to the paper and let your brain problem solve by prioritizing the items on the list. You can rank them in order of preference and even cross out or remove the projects that you know you won’t take on any time soon.

Journal about your projects. Keeping a journal can be a great self-coaching tool. In the pages of your journal you have the space to list your projects, write about why they are important to you, and connect with the reason you have for wanting to do each one.

It can be highly motivating to do this. A side effect can be that you start taking action on your projects because you recall your excitement when you committed to the project to begin with.

Journaling about your projects can also be highly eye opening. You may find yourself detailing why the project seemed like a good idea and why it doesn’t anymore.

You can plan your next step and refer back to your journal to record your progress and maybe put checkmarks by the projects you complete.

Ask a friend to hold you accountable. Having another person ask you what progress you’ve made on your book is a powerful tool for getting things done. We know it feels better to be able to say “why yes, I am cranking right along on my project” than it does to shuffle our feet, look at the floor, and think of reasons why we just didn’t or couldn’t.

If you decide to work with a friend it can be as easy as sending them an email and asking them that you would like support on and could they perhaps call or email you once a week to see how you’re making progress?

I recommend a system for asking a friend to hold you accountable. (I love systems!) For this one, ask your friend if they would mind holding you accountable for a specific project. Offer to return the favor and hold them accountable too.

Schedule a time to call and plan to talk for five or ten minutes max. That time is spend sharing what steps you plan to take that day or in the next couple of days. Schedule your next call for when you can celebrate your progress and make a plan for the next items you’ll check off your list.

When you do this with regularity you’ll find that you can really move forward. A word of caution though. It is very tempting to chit-chat with either a friend or someone you might not know very well. This process takes self-control.

Work with a coach. When money is exchanged it creates the energy of commitment. It is one thing to say that you want to complete a specific project. When you take it to the next level by investing money to complete that project, you are motivating yourself by declaring, “hey, this is so incredibly important to me that I’m willing to invest in a quality service that is going to help me move forward in this part of my life.”

It is wildly, delightfully, productively, powerful.

So, what project will you work on this summer? And what tool will you use to make sure it gets done?

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb: Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.

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