While it may seem like working on several projects in parallel is a good way to keep things going, we’re often better off to move fewer projects further than juggling more for longer.
My neighbor came to the above realization on his own as I was giving him a quick intro to the Momentum Planning system. Like I always do, I started with explaining the Five Projects Rule and I asked him what his five priority projects were for September.
When he mentioned the fourth project on his list, I instantly knew it was the one that didn’t have a strong anchor. It had the air of the “good to do” project, whereas the others had manifest reasons why they needed to be done for the month. It wasn’t just that it was an urgent but not important project, as a couple of others were, too.
After we explored some other potential projects and downgraded some others to week-sized projects, he still had six projects. Cagematch time!
When prompted about which one project he would drop for the month if he had to, surprise surprise, it was the fourth one.
I asked, “Why that one?”
He went on to explain that the project itself didn’t have to get done for a few quarters, but he had a habit of having multiple creative projects going at any time, each at a snail’s pace. As he was explaining it to me, he realized that maybe that’s why it takes him forever to get anywhere on his creative projects — he’s moving three projects an inch apiece instead of any single one a foot forward.
If he was working on the snail’s-pace project now, it would only make him more stressed and push progress further behind. But if he focused on the essential projects now, he could instead focus on the slower projects later and do better work on one of them at that time.
It’s amazing what having useful constraints does for our thinking.
This post is part of a series of “atomic essays” published on Twitter. The previous post from this series is about making the package fit you rather than finding ways to fit into the package.