The Art of Finishing a Project

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Project management is a huge part of my work, but when it comes to my home, which is filled with half-finished (or barely even started) to-dos, my track record is less-than-stellar. This year I'm resolved to tackle home projects in an organized and efficient way, the same as I would approach my job. Here's my plan:

Prioritize: It's easier for some people than others, but making home projects a priority in your life is the first step toward actually getting them done. I, for one, will often put work, family, even doing nothing ahead of working on my house. I am constantly reminding myself that even though it isn't obvious, getting things organized at home keeps me out of a mental state of frenzy that messy, half-finished projects cause. And that makes pretty much every other part of my life a whole lot easier.

Make a List: Step one in managing projects is making a list of what needs to be done. Writing it all down will obviously keep you from forgetting, but will also help visualize the scope of the work.

Break it Down: If the list starts getting so long that it borders on overwhelming, break it up into smaller, prioritized lists — “Things to Get Done in the Next 3 Months,” “...Next 6 Months,” “When We Finally Get the Money,” etc. Also break down large projects into individual tasks, the smaller the better.

Create Milestones: For me, this is the essential step in keeping a project from languishing and moving it forward. Look at each task and think about how much time it will take, whip out your calendar and schedule it. Think about what works best for you — schedule one thing a week or set up times specifically for getting certain jobs done (i.e. 1 hour for sorting though clothes for goodwill). Scheduling helps me figure out exactly what I should be doing and when, so I can focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about all the other things that need to get done. Milestones can always be adjusted along the way if you start getting behind (or ahead!).

Start: The hardest part of any project is always getting started … or getting started again. Often just getting up and going will provide a ton of positive momentum — momentum that sitting around and thinking too much about it will totally erase.

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