07 February 2011

Project Overload

I know I'm definitely guilty of project overload. The upside to having too many projects is that you are never bored!

The downside is that you can neglect one project or another. Sometimes this is a natural way to prune out old projects, making room for more constructive or profitable ones. Other times you have a project that might take a lot of your time, but isn't generating the results you want.

Here are some ways to combat project overload:

Start a mind map
I really like mind maps. My favourite free mind map software is XMind, as I've mentioned in my Quick Reference Guide.

I find mind mapping allows you to have free flowing thoughts without feeling trapped in a linear way of thinking.

Start with listing all the projects you are currently working on. Then, you can start branching out and add tasks to each assignment. You can mark it's relevance to your career, it's deadline, it's possible impact on your time and how important you think it is. Mind maps are great as they allow you to keep coming back to them over and over again with new ideas and revisions.

Image you are helping a friend
Pretend for a moment that it's not you who is overwhelmed with too many projects, but a friend coming to you with this issue. It's a lot easier to stay objective when you aren't thinking about yourself. Ask your "friend" which project is the most important or has the most rapidly approaching deadline. Figure out the order of the projects your "friend" should consider by marking them in importance by numbering them from most to least important. This should allow you to step back far enough from the chaos to figure out what the next step should be.

Keep track of your day
Nothing makes a bad situation worse as easily as being unorganised.  Keep a desk, wall or desktop calendar handy and make sure it's constantly updated. Even down to the hour or minute can help you put things into perspective and keep you focused and on task. If you don't know where your time is going, then you won't which projects are time wasters and which are worth the time you are investing into them.

Curb the new projects back
You have a great idea. In fact, it might just be the next BIG thing. However, you already have several projects currently eating up your time and you just can't start work on a new one. Start a mind map or even just a plain notebook and write down the ideas. Nothing is worse than having a great idea, then forgetting it later. Keep the notebook or mind map file handy and refer back to it, adding new ideas or updating the old ones. Once your idea is fleshed out enough, you can then schedule time into your day to make it a reality. Doing so before your idea is fully ready to take form can lead to a lot of wasted time.

Have you every experienced project overload? What have you done to defeat it? Share your tips in the comments!

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