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Staying Focused on the Project

Sep 11, 2007
Very often we begin a project with a specific goal in mind, only to find ourselves sidetracked. It happens every day in every way. The phone or doorbell rings, one of the kids needs help, or your spouse hollers something unintelligible from the basement. Anything can and often does happen to break our concentration. Murphy's Law is alive and kicking.

However, one can stay focused on the current project. Focusing on the current project to satisfactory completion will enable you to move on to the next project, without that nagging realization that you didn't finish this one. Returning to a previous enterprise in order to tweak or fix something is actually a waste of your time whereas, if you had been focused, you wouldn't have to "do" it again. Isn't it amazing how often it is that we have the time to do it again, but often don't have the time to do it right the first time?

In order to stay focused, one should prepare an outline. Preparing a written outline is a surefire way to stay focused on your project. You can prepare different plans for separate projects, with several projects ongoing at the same time. During some projects you may encounter "waiting times", for any number of reasons. Having different project outlines available will ensure that "waiting time" does not necessarily mean "wasted time".

When writing an outline, it's important to cover each aspect of your project, from start to finish. Always ask and answer the Who, What, Where, When and How questions. This may sound elementary, even redundant, but it works. And no-one can fault what consistently works.

While preparing your outline, ideas will pop into your head. The "what ifs", and "could be's" will enable you to see a great many possibilities to incorporate into your project. Or not. Whether or not you use those ideas will determine the completed product. Those ideas and their quality may or may not be incorporated into the final product, but having those ideas now is certainly better than wishing you had planned for them, when it's too late. You may need to revisit some aspect of your outline. It's much easier and less costly to revise the plan, than to revise the project after beginning. An outline will enable you to "see around corners", so to speak. To look ahead and foresee possible problems. It all comes from writing it down. Most of us don't plan to fail, but very often we fail to plan. Failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail.

Your outline doesn't need to be fancy. Depending upon the intricacy of your project, a numbered or bulleted list may serve your purposes. Of course, the more intricate your project, the more intricate your outline will become. You can even incorporate check boxes, so that when those distractions come, as they usually do, you'll know exactly where you stopped.

Your outline should flow from beginning to end just as if you were actually working on the project. This will help you keep the various phases in perspective. You may need to plan the various phases in detail. These phase plans will become part of your overall plan. For the purposes of building your outline, pretend you're building a house. The foundation would naturally come first, then the walls, finally the roof. Your outline should follow this "building code". All worthwhile structures follow this example. The fleshing out of your outline would be the same as the landscaping and decorating of your house. Save them for last. In other words, start with the basics: What, When, Where, Why and How, (the foundation). Then move on to the tools, resources and knowledge, (the walls). Next comes the finish (the roof).

The "outline" stage of your project is where you'll do most of the learning required to reach a successful conclusion of your project. For example: What tools do you need? Where will you find those tools? How much do they cost? What resources can you find to help you? What resources do you have? Where can you go, or who can you see to gain the necessary know-how? These questions and many more need answering before you can expect to be successful in your project. When you ask yourself these questions and get them answered, often you'll find the project is within your capabilities. When you write down and follow your plan, one step at a time, the project becomes less daunting. The longest journey begins with one step. When you write your outline and re-read it a few times, your memory will be "unlocked" and sometimes you'll be amazed at what you already knew.

Now you're ready to go back and flesh out your outline. (The landscaping and decorating.) This is where you can get bogged down with the details if you lose sight of the "big picture". Take your time with the details; after all, quality is also part of your project. But put together the details in such a way that they can be changed. This is an outline, not a plan carved in stone. You can make revisions, additions, deletions, substitutions and corrections. It's easier to make those changes now rather than later.

Open ended projects have a tendency to stay "open". So unless your project is collecting Manchurian artifacts, or some such, it should have an end date or time. You may need to extend the completion date or time, but you'll be much closer to the end if you have a completion schedule, than if you don't.

With the outline you've created, you can go on to create a formal plan with all the diagrams, drawings, measurements, etc. All an outline really does is give you a starting place. If your project is fairly simple, maybe this is all you need to use as a guide to finish your project. In any case, you now have that first step.
About the Author
Anthony Stai owns and operates the #5 (Google) site for As Seen On TV products. Check out this page for your best price on As Seen On TV Home and Garden products .
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