There is no greater feeling than completing the launch of an awesome new website, a high profile PR campaign, or a brand new product. However, starting a large project is generally an overwhelming and stressful experience for many entrepreneurs. It can be easy to get caught up with research and the minutia of decision making.
When you account for the day-to-day tasks of running your business, it can seem nearly impossible to add a major project to your to-do list. However, in order for your business to succeed, large initiatives need to be executed seamlessly from start to finish.
For those of us productivity seekers, you know that if you can block out the time, you’ve got the time! So don’t hold yourself back. In 12 weeks from today, you could be shelving a new product line at a national retailer, wowing visitors with an exciting remodel or starting your new dream business!
Following a “12-Week Countdown” model is the perfect tool for launching any business project. (Heck, it even works in life!) By utilizing the simple, yet effective, process of reverse engineering, it creates a clear and concise path towards your goal. Use the “12-Week Countdown” system to turn your lofty goals into manageable tasks and conquer your failure to launch.
Fighting failure to launch
While anxiety can keep you from starting new projects, planning can provide the confidence and clarity you need to tackle tasks and create serious progress. Whether you’re in need of a branding overhaul or looking to remodel your office, getting caught up on where to start on a big project will waist crucial hours and add to your stress levels.
Attack any new initiative like a chef and chop up your lofty goal into more manageable chunks. Create a step by step plan and voila, you have all the ingredients of your recipe for success. If you put in the work to create a realistic 12 week plan, all you have to do is stay on pace and focus on one week at a time to successfully launch any new project.
Procrastination is habitual for many adults but according to one study by Bonnie Mincu in 2012, a feeling of paralysis accounted for a failure to start in 62% of those surveyed.
The profundity here is that we often fail to successfully begin a large project out of paralysis – or fear – that needs to be addressed and overcome long before we can employ these other tips and tricks for better productivity. Best-selling author Peter Bregman explains that this fear and paralysis happens because failure is deeply connected to our identity.
We don’t want to fail and thus, feel like a failure as a person. We don’t want to take too long, do poor work, stop half way, or complete the entire project only to find it insufficient and we avoid those outcomes by leaving it untouched.
A study at Bryn Maur demonstrates this fear to begin and to successfully complete projects and how that fear splinters into stress and anxiety – emotional responses that are not only uncomfortable but which can lead to further paralysis, physical illness, and adverse effects on the brain:
In his article for Psychology Today Bregman explains, however, that by recognizing what tools, skills, info, or support are necessary for a project to go well, you can identify your next manageable step. By using the 12-week planning system, you can subvert this usual pattern and conquer your fears, feeling stable and confident in your ability to complete the next, appropriately-sized step in your larger project.
Reverse engineering success
Let’s say you want to launch a new PR campaign to get more online reviews for your business. You know what your end goal is, but you also know that it’s not a simple task that you can complete in a day.
In order to manage your productivity, start from your end goal of having more reviews for your business and start to fill in your 12-Week Countdown planner. From researching PR firms and marketing agencies to implementing a new reviews management system for your business, each task should have its own place in your 12 week plan.
You might not like the idea of a long line of deadlines in your calendar for the next three months but humans are naturally motivated by deadlines. When interviewed by Jocelyn K. Glei of Adobe’s 99U, Illustrator Christoph Niemann attributed his team’s success to the “fixed window of opportunity” that a deadline presents for creators noting that a close and respected deadline “requires us to be focused, pragmatic, and decisive.”
Neimann goes on to explain that creating anxiety and pressure through an accountable deadline focuses that energy on productivity whereas, if deadlines are soft or abstract, the anxiety and energy around a product is funneled into the bemusing, brainstorming, and imagining – an essential part of any project, but not the part that gets the job completed.
Besides, as Conan O’Brien says, “nothing motivates you to figure out what your show should be like selling a bunch of tickets.” When you bolt yourself into a tight deadline, you can strategize how to get there.
As you fill out your plan from finish to start, you’re creating the roadmap to a successful project launch.
By removing the immense pressure of completing a massive task, you eliminate stress. If you block out time on your schedule to devote to your launch, you limit distractions from hindering your productivity.
Pencil in specific dates and times throughout the 12 week period where you can focus solely on this important PR campaign, business plan, competitive analysis or product launch project and even more – to focus solely on the increment you have assigned to this day or week.
It’s proven that we lose up to 40% of our productivity by choosing to “multi-task,” an action that researchers are now referring to as “task-switching” instead. We overuse and fatigue four separate areas of our brain by choosing to switch between tasks while trying to complete a project.
Dr. Susan Weinschenk recommends using concentrated time instead – shutting down all processes except the task at hand, knowing that you are doing what needs to be done most at a given time and that failure to focus could result in longer completion times or a lesser finished product, plus the adverse impact on the brain.
Concurrent research by systems thinker Gerald Weinberg demonstrates the negative impact of task-switching or project-switching:
By committing yourself fully to projects that are paramount to your business’ success, you ensure that each project receives the attention it deserves and maximize the time and energy you put into your business.
Bite sized tasks
By breaking down major company wide initiatives into daily, weekly and monthly tasks, you don’t feel the immense pressure of the entire project all at once. The goal of planning out a pivotal project is to create momentum and avoid costly hang-ups.
Productivity specialist Linda Ray said it best, that we should “view the entire project as the culmination of and collaboration of many smaller projects.” By viewing your large project incrementally, it’s not only easier to digest and begin to tackle, but it is also allows us to budget our energy for each component – those we enjoy and those we don’t.
No detail is too small to include in your 12 week plan. As you break down each task across the 12 weeks, you start to visualize the trail you have to take to complete your launch on-time. Knowing that all you have to do is complete that week’s tasks to stay on track will keep you encouraged and help you feel accomplished.
BBC writer Tom Stafford backs up this concept in his research of the Zeigarnik Effect, noting that “breaking each task down into its individual actions allows you to convert your work into things you can either physically do now or forget about, happy in the knowledge that [each task] is placed in the system where it belongs.”
As a successful business woman, you thrive in hectic, challenging situations. You love setting goals and reaching them. That’s exactly what the “12-Week Countdown” system is. It’s creating a plan and path towards success.
When you fill out the twelve weeks in your planner, you’re creating visual and tangible accountability for yourself. If motivation is not enough to move you along through your tasks, you may want to run your tendency to procrastinate through Alex Vermeer’s flowchart:
Once you overcome your lack of motivation, you will also have the joy of crossing off every task you’ve set forth for the previous week. That joy isn’t just anecdotal, by the way. In the Trello blog, Lauren Marchese explains the science behind checklists and why it feels oh-so-good to check items off. Turns out, task completion – when meaningful – releases dopamine in the brain which is connected to pleasure, motivation, and habit development.
In 3 months, you can have whatever it is that you want. Set your mind to it and make it happen with the “12-Week Countdown” system.
Take it a step further by accessing our Launch Countdown templates, found in each of The Launch Planners. Our mid year versions are currently ON SALE NOW!