So you’ve got some home projects you want to do this year? How unsettling that most of them will never get started, fail somewhere along the way, or at best get finished but not live up to your expectations.
How many of the projects on your list now were there last January or the January before?
I know I am poking the bear right now, but please know project failures do not mean you are a failure. I know you’re trying to be the best of everything…mother, wife, employee, friend, homemaker…and so most of the time your stuff takes the backseat.
But what if it didn’t have to?
What if next January your list looked completely different because you checked off the stuff for this year (or decided not to do something in favor of something better that you actually finished)?
It seems unlikely when comparing yourself to the Pinterest Princess who spits out harder than it looks DIY projects that defy human ability, Betty Blogger whose celebrating all.the.things she did to her house last year, and Nancy Neighbor who just remodeled her basement, lost 50 lbs, and her oldest son got into Harvard. (Naturally, hopefully, I am exaggerating.)
How in the world do they get it all done? And who are you to think you could do the same?
Here’s the truth…
They’re not getting it all done. They’re getting some very visible top priorities done and it’s likely you are not seeing the chaos, help, time or money spent behind the scenes.
If you want to successfully finish more projects this year, then there are three things you need to do:
- Define Success
- Build Momentum
- Prioritize and plan your projects
The Avoidable Project Failure
Projects fail because they never start, they fizzle out in the middle and never finish, or they finish and don’t meet your expectations (hello, regret).
This is part 1 of a 3-part series to help you get more projects crossed off your list this year. In Part 3 we’ll cover how to get the right projects started, in Part 2 we’ll talk about motivation and momentum so there’s no lost fizz, and today we’ll talk about the failure you shouldn’t ever experience.
Backwards I know, but I think we should get the totally avoidable failure out of the way first.
If you can start a project and keep up the energy to finish it, then it deserves to be a success.
So why then do some projects not feel good when you are done? Why aren’t you satisfied? And why can’t you pinpoint what is off so you can fix it?
The result didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Usually that’s because you never clarified what you really wanted in the first place.
In project management we call that success criteria. It’s how you know if the project was a success. You don’t decide it at the end, you decide it at the beginning. That way you know all along what you are aiming for and what it will take to get there.
Say for example you want to paint a focal wall in your family room. You buy some paint, spend an afternoon painting, put the room back together, then you stand back and whomp, whomp…you hate it. The color you picked makes the room look smaller and it doesn’t look good in the afternoon sunlight.
Not only do you not love it, now you have to find time to re-do it or stare at it everyday regretting the moment you picked up the paint brush.
Preventing the Let Down
Instead, let’s say you take 5 minutes to think about why you want to paint a focal wall and what you don’t want to happen if you paint a focal wall.
You want your focal wall to:
- Draw people into the room
- Create a focal point because you don’t have a fireplace
- Refresh the room without painting all the walls
You don’t want a focal wall to:
- Clash or look too bold
- Make the room feel smaller
That’s your success criteria. Said another way, the finished focal wall will refresh the space with a new focal point that draws people in, but doesn’t scream look at me and doesn’t make the room look smaller.
With that in mind, now it’s time to plan your project. Simply stating the success criteria changes which wall you choose to paint and what color you choose to paint.
- If you want to draw people into the room, you want to paint the wall most visible from the entrance of the room.
- If you don’t want them to feel like the wall is up in their face screaming look at me, you probably don’t want to choose orange paint.
- And if along the way, the darker color seems to be shrinking the room, you might want to move the large floor mirror on to that wall to reverse the effect.
Getting the Result You Want
Your success criteria guide your project. What you plan to do, how you adjust along the way, and how you feel about the project in the end.
Success criteria transcends the stuff we usually worry about in projects, like time and money.
Because it doesn’t matter how long it takes, how much you spend, or how much you save, if it doesn’t turn out a success.
If it fails to meet your expectations, then you might as well not have done it.
Success criteria gets to the heart of why you are doing the project and helps you make decisions during the project.
A lot of projects never finish or don’t live up to expectations, because you add and change things on a whim during the project.
If you have success criteria, you refer to those before making any changes. How does this thing I want to add or this thing I want to change contribute to the success of this project? Does it ensure success or detract from it?
If you are serious about meeting all of your success criteria—getting what your really want—then you should only add things or change things that are more likely to make the project a success.
Measuring the Success of Your Project
That regret you feel when a project doesn’t live up to your expectations is avoidable. Start with clear expectations.
It’s like shopping for something on Amazon. You want a new camera, read the “most helpful” reviews, and buy one. Then you’re disappointed when it doesn’t fit in your purse or come with an adapter to upload pictures to your computer.
If you knew those two things were important you, then you should have searched reviews for those two criteria and chosen a camera that met them.
With your home projects, it’s not enough to say we are going to makeover the bathroom…
- Paint the walls – check!
- Hang a new mirror – check!
- Replace the shower curtain – check!
Determining if it was a success goes beyond checking all the to-dos off the list. It doesn’t matter what you checked off, if the shared kids and guest bathroom doesn’t look inviting, make your mother-in-law feel right at home and conceal all your kids bath toys.
You have to set your success criteria, plan your project to meet them, then check the results of your work against them.
Did the bathroom makeover…
- Lighten up the room and make it look bigger and more inviting – check!
- Make your MIL compliment how lovely it looks – check!
- Include hidden, but easily accessible storage for the bath toys – check!
That’s success. And you can have it by planning for it up front.
Next week in Part 2 of this series, we are going to talk about building momentum and maintaining motivation to get the project done. Why that next? Because you don’t need to start any new projects until you’ve figured out how to finish the ones you already have half-done.
Rheana Corirossi says
Thank you ! When I read this a lightbulb turned on. Its just what exactly i do ; go all half cocked etc. Next project new mindset
Rheana, Yes! You can do it. This step is so easy, but super powerful!
Jackie I think you are right on in your direction to define success criteria.
When you gave the example of the accent wall, I think that you explained clearly specific things to think of/look for in making it not flop! And the same for the bathroom example.
BUT- say, for example ;) that the project is a bedroom makeover and you want to make the space feel like a comforting, beautiful, put together oasis of marital rest and relaxation BUT you don’t feel you know enough about style and accessorizing a room, and aren’t sure what specific things to do to try to avoid that sinking feeling when everything is completed and big $$ and time is used up and your efforts didn’t pan out because your success criteria were too vague due to ignorance about the project that was taken on.
Besides hiring a decorator and a lot of trial and error, how can the average not-trained home maker develop good success criteria?
Thanks – I realize this is a kinda loaded question but I sure look forward to your response!