What to Do When a Project Takes Longer Than Expected
Tuesday February 1, 2022
Today, I want to get really raw with you.
I’ll admit, it’s something I don’t do as often as I probably should. But 2021 upended my expectations of my outcomes and myself, and I think it’s time I shared that experience and the lessons that came with it.
You see, there was a time when I could pop out a training course in one month or less. Hence the name of my latest offer, “1 Month Program Builder”.
So naturally, when I decided to turn my knowledge of program creation into an audio, video, book and transcript course, I expected it to go pretty fast.
Then technology, my schedule, my home life, and my brain proceeded to kick my ass.
I developed an increasingly bad habit of staying up increasingly late – a habit I’m still trying to kick. Even when I do get to bed, it often takes a long time to fall asleep, and I’ve yet to find a supplement or medication that helps for more than a couple days. (You’d think a brain that complained all day about being tired would be more amenable to sleeping when it has the chance!)
As a result, I’ve spent a lot of days tired, struggling to concentrate, and falling behind schedule because I couldn’t work as fast as I’d like to.
And there was a lot to work on. Client projects, JV projects, creating writing and art projects, reaching out to and following up with potential clients, and taking up more work around the house because some of the other members of the household took on new jobs… all of these competed for my time.
I’ll confess, my inbox often ate up the time I’d planned to spend on program creation and other tasks, and when it was time to work on my program, I sometimes had trouble finding enough time when it was quiet enough to record my audios and videos.
My laptop began to literally fall apart, even though it wasn’t remotely old enough for that crap, and when I replaced it, the new computer began to randomly freeze within the first couple weeks, forcing me to lose any work that was unsaved at the time of the freeze.
To make matters worse, after a few months, my new computer’s microphone suddenly started to malfunction, losing the ability to record good-quality audio even when my surroundings were quiet. No matter how many different mics I used, or how many hours I spent talking with tech support when I’d rather have been working on 1 Month Program Builder, I couldn’t get the shrieking static to go away.
As the icing on the technological cake, one of the software systems I’d created a walkthrough for chose that time to change its interface, rendering the video I’d created for it obsolete.
Between all of these delays, what I’d thought would be a much faster process wound up taking over a year.
The longer it took, the more stressed I got.
I felt like an impostor. I’d named my program 1 Month Program Builder, because I knew from experience I could get that result, so why wasn’t I living up to that this time? (Okay, I knew why – I knew MANY different reasons why – but whyyyy?)
I became increasingly stressed, and the chronic delays began to eat at my self-confidence. The longer the project took, the more that sense of struggle and guilt became associated with it.
It began to feel like a bigger mountain to climb than it really was, and on the days when I was especially exhausted, the sheer perceived size of it sometimes intimidated me into doing other, easier tasks instead.
And the more I procrastinated, the bigger and more intimidating it seemed. It was a vicious cycle.
Through all of this, I learned – and, in some cases, was reminded of – some important lessons.
Lesson 1: Don’t assign yourself big tasks. Assign yourself series of smaller ones.
Ironically, this is something I teach, and it’s something I usually implement. But once in a while, I have to remind myself to do it – or I have to do it to a greater degree than I already was.
Instead of putting “work on 1 Month Program Builder” in my calendar, I learned to schedule single, specific tasks, such as “create X video,” “create the transcript for X video,” and “edit the transcript for X video.”
I also listed these tasks in the order in which they needed to be completed. Anytime a task began to feel too big, I would break it down into even smaller tasks, and focus on the one I needed to do right then.
Lesson 2: If it seems too hard or time-consuming, look or ask for an easier way.
While I was on one of Ely Delaney’s Meet Cool People networking calls, I commented on how long it took to create transcripts for videos, and Ely responded by recommending a transcript creation program called Otter.ai. You can upload audio or video files into their system, and it’ll automatically generate a transcript.
This transcript requires some cleaning up to make sure the paragraph breaks are right, and that none of the words are homophones of what they were supposed to be, but it’s VASTLY less time-consuming than writing it all from scratch!
And if you want to check out the Meet Cool People networking call, you can connect with Ely here.
Lesson 3: Think outside the box.
After hours and hours of talking with tech support, I’d pretty much exhausted my options for fixing my laptop’s built-in microphone or solving the problem by using a plug-in mic.
Short of reinstalling Windows, and having to spend MORE hours redoing all the app installations and customization I’d done when I first got this laptop, the tech support rep couldn’t think of anything else to try.
So rather than do that, I made it easy on myself: I grabbed one of my older laptops (there’s a reason I hold onto those things!), and used it to record the videos I needed. Then I sent the video file to my new computer via Google Drive.
If something just plain isn’t working, sometimes you need to cut your losses, and find a completely different route that leads to the same destination.
Lesson 4: Learn to say "No."
As much as I hate to miss a good opportunity, there came a point where I realized that I couldn’t sincerely say “yes” to anything new while I still had so much work on my plate. Any “yes” I said would actually mean, “I’m going to add this to my calendar, then probably keep on moving it back to make room for the higher-priority things I’m already working on.”
Yes, we entrepreneurs can sometimes feel pressured to try to make room for everything that comes our way, lest we end up being one of those sad stories of people who failed because they didn’t do what it took to seize their moment when it presented itself.
But nobody can take on every opportunity, every project, and every learning curve simultaneously.
There are times when you simply have to say, “That sounds great, but I’ve currently got enough prior commitments that I can’t take on anything new at this time. Let’s follow up in X months, when I should hopefully have more bandwidth for this.”
Lesson 5: Remind yourself of past accomplishments.
Sometimes, when the time it’s taken for me to complete 1 Month Program Builder leads me to doubt myself and the quality of my offer, I remind myself of why I chose that name in the first place: because I HAVE created training programs in 1 month or less before.
This isn’t idle theory or salesy exaggeration. I know from EXPERIENCE that this works. But now I also know from experience that sometimes life gets in the way.
If you decide to use 1 Month Program Builder to turn your expertise into a coaching program, so you can coach more people in less time and have more time to devote to the other projects you may have put on the back burner, you CAN get this done in as little as 1 month.
Or maybe you won’t be able to prioritize your new program enough to get it done that fast, and that’s okay, too. The important thing isn’t that you meet a deadline that doesn’t fit with your priorities and desired lifestyle. The important thing is that you keep on going until you've created the program that enables you to better live that lifestyle, while helping as many people as you want.
Lesson 6: Don’t judge yourself for the expectations you didn’t meet yesterday.
Yesterday is gone, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Thinking about all the days when you didn’t make as much progress as you wanted to only teaches your brain to do more of the same, locking you into that cycle of frustration and disempowerment.
Instead, focus on what you can do about it today, and the progress you’ll make and the benefits you’ll reap in the days to come. Remind yourself that the fact that you struggled with this means you can help other people who struggle in the same way, from a place of compassion and firsthand experience.
Ready to get your coaching program created?
If you want be one of the first to know when 1 Month Program Builder comes out, go here to get on the waiting list.
And if you want to start building your coaching program ASAP, you can get the book version of 1 Month Program Builder here.