Strategies & tactics for those Big Projects

I’ve got some big projects on my plate this year.  Bet you do, too.

© iQoncept -

© iQoncept –

Perhaps, like me, you have those moments where you take a good look at all you have to do and wonder how you’ll ever tackle, manage, conquer, or even simply get through them.

You may feel twinges of anxiety and doubt and experience thoughts (or even nightmares) of being unprepared and alone. Metaphorically you may even feel a little like a newbie cage fighter tossed into the ring with a monster of an opponent that, from your limited perspective, seems bigger, stronger, and more vicious and daunting than what you ever bargained for.

You could be saying to yourself, “Wow. What am I doing? What the h_ll was I thinking?”

Never fear. It’s simply time to pause, breathe, pour yourself a cup (or glass) of something soothing, and think back to all the times you’ve tackled, managed, and flat-out owned dozens, perhaps even hundreds of other challenges in your life and career.

How did you do it?

I’ll tell you how.  You got calm. You got strategic. And you summoned all the people, resources, strategies, and tactics you could think of to help you along the way.

Here’s the list I came up with recently while in the throes of serious overwhelm. It’s all the things I’ve done in the past to Get Big Things Done and face stuff that scares the beans out of me. See if you agree that these work – or are at least worth trying.  Maybe add in a few of your own.

Prep & planning

  • Identify, commit to and focus on the goal.  (Seriously. If you’re not clear here, everything will seem fuzzy and difficult.)
  • Set a deadline.
  • Concoct a plan, strategy & schedule.
  • KISS – Keep it Short & Simple.
  • Make a list of the Five Things you need to do each day to achieve the goal. (A nod to John C. Maxwell here; this has become one of my favorite new tactics.)
  • Do these Five Things each day.
  • Set mini-goals or benchmarks.
  • Educate yourself; do your homework.
  • Invest in the right training, equipment and supplies.
  • Be willing to learn new things, open to possibilities, and have your perspective changed.
  • Allow yourself to grow into the goal or challenge mentally, physically, emotionally, even spiritually.

People (This is where having an Intentional Network comes in handy!)

  • Don’t expect that you can accomplish Whatever It Is alone.
  • Surround yourself with smart, savvy, supportive, smiling people.
  • Ask for and take note of advice, feedback, and support.
  • Call in a few favors.
  • Listen to your critics and advisors. However…
  • In the end, respect your own wisdom, heart, and intuition.
  • In short, do it the way you believe you should do it.

 Along the way

  • Take it one week, one day, one hour or even one minute at a time.
  • When the short term view gets dull, look at the long term view.
  • And vice versa.
  • Do your best to be persistent and positive.
  • Appreciate and enjoy the journey.
  • Have fun.
  • Watch for and celebrate signs of progress.
  • Expect occasional “breakdowns.”
  • Know these low points will pass and, if you’ve played your cards right, there will be people to help you through them.
  • See obstacles and problems as opportunities to be creative.
  • Keep going even when it’s hard – push to the next level of discomfort or fear.
  • Note that this is often when you have massively affirming turning points.
  • Realize that “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (Thank you for that, A.A. Milne)
  • Allow for some well-timed rest periods (for me, this would be daily naps) and distractions.
  • Mix work with play.
  • Allow for rest, recovery and reflection.
  • Feed and nurture yourself regularly.
  • Look for lessons along the way, from both the little triumphs and the frustrating setbacks.
  • Encourage others on similar journeys.
  • This will help you see how far you’ve come.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Laugh at yourself.  A lot and often.
  • Be proud of all you have accomplished.

Surely you have items you could add to this list.

What gets you going, gives you courage, and sustains you when you’re facing big projects and challenges?

Speaking of big projects: I bet you know of a conference, association, or organization where my workshops, presentations or coaching programs would be a good fit. Please pass my information along to them.  I’d be grateful. Want to see me in action?  Click here.

15 Responses to Strategies & tactics for those Big Projects
  1. Debbie Herrington
    March 26, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    Seriously, sometimes just walking away from my desk does the trick: jumping in the shower, walking outside in the sunshine, taking a walk, driving somewhere. Simply getting away from the problem often clears my mind and let’s the creative juice flow again.

    • pattid
      March 26, 2014 | 4:39 pm

      Debbie, thanks for the comment and I would add your ideas to the list. Get out of your usual environment and give your brain / intuition / creativity a chance to breathe! Love it.

    • pattid
      March 26, 2014 | 4:41 pm

      Right as I write this I’m listening to a song on Pandora where the lyric says “If you’re goin’ through hell, keep on goin’. Don’t slow down. If you’re scared don’t show it…” Funny!

  2. Darlene Giles
    March 26, 2014 | 4:09 pm

    Wow, Patti – this is exactly what I needed to read today. I printed out your list to give me concrete evidence that I CAN get through the challenges at work and looming deadlines (despite waking up at 4am in a cold sweat panic) that are overwhelming me right now. Maybe I can avert the “train wreck” after all. Thank you!

    • pattid
      March 26, 2014 | 4:40 pm

      Darlene! Hello! So great to see your comment here today. It’s so true. We forget just how capable we are and how much we’ve already conquered. Yes, you can avert (or survive) the train wreck. You’ve done it dozens of times!

  3. Amy Praskac
    March 27, 2014 | 2:12 pm

    I employ the concept of Einstein time, the notion that you are in charge of time and can make as much of it as you need. This is the opposite of Newtonian time which is linear and limited.

    All of this explained much better than I can by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap. Highly recommended.

    • pattid
      March 27, 2014 | 4:02 pm

      Thanks for this, Amy. I love the notion of Einstein time. And somehow it seems to work. Wish the same went for sleep, but I’m working on that! Appreciate your contribution here and that you are a reader!

  4. Todd Schnick
    March 28, 2014 | 8:47 am

    Great stuff. Have evernoted this bad boy for future reference. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Barbara Springer
    March 31, 2014 | 4:17 pm

    These tips are really helpful!

    I use a spreadsheet to create a project list for all the tasks, and then use the colors of a stoplight to give a quick overview of the status. Green is completed, yellow is in progress and red is late.

    It makes me feel happy when I can see the number of green rows increase!

    • pattid
      March 31, 2014 | 4:54 pm

      Hello Barbara! This is a great idea. I love the color coding aspect especially. I appreciate the contribution and thanks for being a reader!

  6. Jeanne Guy
    April 2, 2014 | 10:40 am

    Hey Patti –

    I read through these tips quickly yesterday and thought, yeah I know all this. But during my journaling-and-creative-thinking time this a.m., I reread them s-l-o-w-l-y and realized how critical they are, because knowing and practicing are two different animals.

    One thing I am practicing is “the power of three” – sort of like a shortlist of prioritized items to do in a specific timeframe (usually an hour) and then set my Zen bell timer, knowing I only need to focus on the completion of those three things.

    The bell just rang. Time to breathe, smile and move on to the next hour.

    I’m keeping your wonderful list handy…:-)

    • pattid
      April 2, 2014 | 12:12 pm

      Hello Jeanne and thanks for commenting. You are so very right. Knowing and doing (and sometimes even teaching / preaching and practicing) are two very different animals. I even had a conversation with my publishing strategist while writing my book The Intentional Networker about how I was writing about best practices in networking, but not always walking my own talk. She quickly replied, “They are still great ideas and worth putting in a book!” So very true. Even Parker Palmer, the teacher of teachers, admits that he is often frightened of not knowing everything or mastering what he teaches. It’s so hard to be human. Anyway, glad you found my list handy and worthy of not only a second look, but also printing out and keeping handy. I go back to my own good advice (or my friends toss it back at me) VERY frequently!

  7. Jim Comer
    April 3, 2014 | 7:13 pm

    I gave myself the luxury of reading your post slowly and thoughtfully and it was excellent. I have been in serious overwhelm this week (that’s what happens when you have three days of true down time with an old friend in New Orleans) and then come back to real life.
    Before I can even start working your wonderful list I must first decide WHICH BIG PROJECT is most important for my long range goals and the vision I have for my life. Everything leads back to that. However, once I’ve committed to the project (as opposed to been committed), I will refer to your list for inspiration. Many thanks.

    • pattid
      April 3, 2014 | 8:19 pm

      Hello Jim! What an honor to have you read and comment on my post. You are so right. I too have to often get clear on what the heck I even WANT before I can take the next steps. So easy to say, write about – harder to practice. Take good care as you decide!

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