I'm a creature of short-term projects. I'll find any excuse to set aside a mountain of long-term projects to take on the same amount of work in a series of molehills. Those strange creatures of long-term projects like to say their work is merely a series of short-term endeavors. But that's pure poppycock! It's like saying a marathon is merely a series of short sprints. It's not.
So, what to do in the face of a long-term project -- or, worse, multiple long-term projects? Given my experience at the d.school, I think it's all about mindset, intention and commitment.
Here's a case from my own life. I have pages of a year-in-review write-up, interview notes, audio recordings and videos I've taken stored in various places around my computer, home and the internet. They're all pieces of three long-term projects I have due. The deadline for everything is June 16, just over two weeks away. Some may say that makes these short-term projects.
But projects that last longer than a day drive me more than a little bonkers.
Rather than work myself into a frenzy and treat my work like some sort of death march to deadline, I plan to adopt an intention, a new mindset and a commitment:
Intention: Health comes first. 'Sounds crazy, right? The seemingly natural byproduct of looming deadlines for the effective worker is sleep deprivation and poor diet. But bear with me. Experience has taught me that, contrary to "The Cult of Busy People Handbook" I've lived by my entire life, the enemy of good work is a fried brain and a heart struggling against high-salt snacks. That's why I like short-term projects. They don't eat away time like a gaping maw, and instead allow me to check in with myself. So I'm going to try to meet this deadline by prioritizing my health, rather than sacrificing it.
Mindset: Joy. I love writing. Really, I do. Editing video is, when done on my own terms, a treat. I'm happiest when I'm playing with an idea in some form, picking it up and looking at it from various angles. What I dislike is the expectation, obligation and judgement that comes with delivering a final product. The next two weeks I will purposefully derive joy from what I love doing rather than wallow in fear of the reaction I may or may not receive when it's done.
Commitment: No. I will say "no" to just about everything that falls outside my projects and my intention to put sleep and exercise first. Oh, you want to have a meeting in the next two weeks? No. A conference call? No. An everlastingly long e-mail exchange that gets us closer to nowhere? No. 'Having a party to end all parties and you want me to be there as a guest of honor with the promise of a rib-cage-crushing hug from Ryan Gosling? Oh, well in that case, I mean ... NO!
Ryan, you're always welcome to come by the d.school and silently cheer every word that I write.