How to Find the Time Part III: How Much Time Do You Need?

Time Management. Image credit: lucida.deviantart.com

How much time do you really need for your project? Did you seriously think about it? Before discarding your idea saying “I don’t have the time”, try to estimate it and think if you can make it faster.

In the previous two parts I wrote about finding the time for small tasks and for your main efforts. Today, I want to make you think how to make your project smaller and easier to fit in your calendar.

This mainly boils down to a few things:

  • managing the scope of your project
  • making sure you move in the right direction
  • being productive
  • staying motivated

Managing the scope

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well.” — Mark Twain

Before you even start working on your project, define the minimum result that you will consider useful.

  • What is the essence of your idea?
  • What is the simplest, easiest way to implement this essential part?
  • What features are absolutely required for your project to work at all?
  • What features can you skip now and add later?

Limit your scope to the bare essence in the first version of your project, cut everything else to the minimum. You might find out the main idea requires much less time than you thought.

Also, to limit the scope of your personal work, think where you can get help:

  • Can you find friends or volunteers to help you?
  • Can you pay someone to do a part of the project?
  • Can you buy some readily available parts?
  • Can your potential audience contribute something?

Do the right thing

It can be very frustrating, discouraging and wasteful to spend weeks working on something, and then realize that was all in vain.

  • You can find yourself in a technological dead-end. Something doesn’t scale or work as expected, or you cannot customize it the way you want. So you have to redo everything from start in a different way.
  • You may find out you are not building what people really need. Close but not quite.
  • You may even find that someone has already implemented your idea five years ago, and better than you can.

How can you avoid this?

Talk to people. Find at least one friend or family member willing to listen. Share your ideas, plans and hopes with them. This will give you a reality check and perhaps a few fresh ideas. This will also validate your assumptions and reveal some obvious omissions in your plans.

Even one opinion of another person is better than yours alone. A few more, especially from qualified people, and you will save an enormous amount of time trying wrong approaches.

Productivity

If you are more productive, you need less time for your project, and you can achieve more. It’s a huge topic with whole books dedicated to it, and there will be probably more posts here about productivity in future. Here are just a few tips to start.

  • Try to work in short intervals. This keeps you fresh, and this makes you value every minute more.
  • Do your creative work before checking email and news. Be a creator first, consumer second.
  • Turn off and remove distractions. Chat programs, email notifications, phone alerts. Switch your phone to silent when you need to concentrate.
  • Set a clear and realistic goal for each work session. Know exactly what to do and how.
  • Prepare for work sessions in advance, both mentally and with all the prerequisites.

Motivation

You work faster and produce better results when you are fully motivated. And when you are not, you risk abandoning your project completely. It is challenging to keep your motivation when facing unexpected problems, lack of acknowledgement and periods of hard work (not all of which is equally exciting) that has to be done to get to the result. So how do you stay motivated?

Try to appeal to both the rational and to the emotional parts of your mind. For the rational side, write down all the benefits you will get. Things like recognition, self-improvement, any real-world results your project will bring. For the emotional side, sit back and imagine how it will feel when it’s done. How beautiful and exciting your project will be. How proud, pleased, accomplished you will feel. Imagine your emotions then, and you will start smiling and feel inspired.

I hope you are also enjoying the process of what you do for your project. After all, it is your choice. There is also no hurry, no pressure; as long as you make some progress every week, you’ll finish it eventually.

Try different times of the day, days of week. I used to work mostly late at night, but then discovered early morning can be more productive, especially for creative work.

Read and listen to others. Find good, proven advice for the skills you want to improve. Find good examples of successful projects similar to yours.

Share your progress with your friends and other people. It’s a great motivation booster. You get some support, some advice, and that sense of commitment that keeps you going. I will probably write more about this soon, this deserves a separate post.

What works for you?

Please share your experience and tricks for time management and productivity in the comments below. Thank you!

This post was written by Valentyn Danylchuk, the editor of Five-Hour Projects. You can also publish guest posts here, suggest projects to write about, or get interviewed – contact val@fivehourprojects.com

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