This week I’ve decided to do a series of posts about how documenting your project, whatever it may be, can be extremely beneficial to your progress. This is Part 2 of 3. [EDIT: This was intended to be a four-part series. I've decided to save the fourth post for much later. ]
Before you even begin to track your project, you need to make sure that you know you what you’re setting out to accomplish.
First Set Smart Goals, Write it Down
One of the most obvious first steps is to set good goals. Envision the end result that you’d like to achieve with this project down to the last detail. With this in mind set your “ultimate” long term goal. Write down all the different aspects of this goal, and more importantly describe what the accomplished goal should look like.
For example, for this project I set the following goals:
- All Floors and surfaces are cleared and visible.
- All doors can open fully and shut properly.
- When a house party is possible.
- When 75% of our belongings are organized and in their place.
Once you’ve detailed the big picture, break the beast of the project down into smaller, more manageable goals and tasks. Make sure you write these down as well. While I don’t have these smaller goals posted publicly, I keep track by using a list of all the rooms in the house then breaking each of the rooms into areas.
Your goals should be SMART. There are various meanings for this mnemonic device, but I think the more important aspects are that your goals are measurable and realistic.
Once you have written these details down you can decide on what you wish to track as you document your progress. Let what you document serve a purpose to your overall goal.
Then Brainstorm, Write it Down
The second most important thing you need to document are your ideas. I’m the type of person that feels comforted by having a pen and paper with me at all times so when any old idea strikes, be it brilliant or downright idiotic, I can write it down. Then again I’m also the type that is constantly thinking up new ideas.
Whether you’re like that or not, set aside some paper space for free-brainstorming. Give yourself room to hash out and solve problems that may come up, or to dream up new ways to approach your project. Some of my best brainstorms have led to detailed road maps for my project, which have guided me along the way so far.
Keep Track of References
To help your project stay organized and help you logistically, I highly recommend setting aside some pages for contact information and reference. This is particularly helpful if you use the same vendors over and over again, or if you need a handy list of services that your project has needed or may need in the future. Make sure this list is easy to update and easy to find
Then keep track of everything else
Before I began this particular project of cleaning my house, I knew to expect a few things:
- It would be a huge and daunting undertaking, therefore I needed to break it down into manageable tasks and set short-term goals.
- I would be unemployed, working off of whatever I saved from my previous job.
- It would be both physically and emotionally demanding.
- It would be easy becoming complacent about the situation, and just get lazy and accept things the way they are. Possible relapse!
As such, I decided to document the following areas:
1. Short-Term goals
As I mentioned earlier, I set aside few pages in a notebook to list all the rooms in my house, from biggest to smallest. This isn’t necessarily the order in which I clean the house, but rather it serves as a checklist marking the areas I’ve completed so far. I also have a calendar in which I write the days I plan to spend on certain areas.
Another idea for your daily documenting would be to set goals to be completed at the end of the day and check your progress.
2. Visual Progress
I still remember the first time I took pictures of my house. I didn’t think too much of it until I viewed the pictures on my computer. My first reaction was that the pictures made my house look worse than I thought it was.
It wasn’t until a few more viewings later that I realized that I was wrong. My house was exactly how the pictures depicted it and it was the years of living in it that made my eyes used to all of it. I had to admit to myself that yes, my house is really THAT bad.
Every time I take a new picture of my house, I go through these same reactions. If you’ve seen any of my previous daily posts, you know that I take quite a few of these.
Even after I’ve spent several hours on an area, it isn’t until I view the ‘after pictures’ and compare it to its ‘before’ pic that I realize what kind of improvement I made. One of the coolest things of any makeover show is seeing the before-and-after pictures.
3. “Regular” Progress
This one has the most creative name of all! Regular progress, at least for my project, includes keeping track of how many full bags of trash I throw away, how many boxes I fill for giveaway, etc. When I bring stuff to donate to a charity, I’ll include documenting the weight of all the stuff I’ve donated.
Because I left my previous job to work on this, I knew whatever money I had to start out would be all that I’d have until I could figure out some way to generate some sort of income.
I’ve been monitoring how much this project costs in terms of supplies I bought and hours I’ve spent. In the near future, I hope to monitor how much I make from online sales, yard sales and such. At the end of the project, I could look back and know what this project cost.
5. Physical Health
I read recently that it is not uncommon for people who take on a big task of decluttering to also lose weight. I’ve been monitoring my own weight, as well as writing about how I’ve been feeling physically overall. The past couple of weeks was rich with this stuff as I’ve been more or less completely weak and in bed. If I don’t do this, then I feel like I might completely neglect myself.
6. Emotional Health
When I announced to my therapist that I decided to embark on this project, I could tell that he got all giddy. I would be confronting a lot of the issues I’ve been dealing with all my life, discovering the sources, and project itself would be a crash course in dealing with all of the emotions that would come up.
Since I started going to therapy, I’ve become more self-aware and insightful about my surroundings and how I react to them. So while I’m at home, I’m picking up little and big things about my family and how everyone interacts with their each other.
I’m slowly trying to understand how our relationships became how they are now, and what made our house become what it is.
And of course, although I’m not the hoarder of the family, I’m letting go of things I’ve grown emotionally attached to somehow.
7. Lessons Learned
This one is especially important to document no matter what your project may be. Set aside some time and space to evaluate your progress on a daily or weekly basis, or by short-term goal checkpoints. List down all of the things that went well, then all of the things that went wrong.
Finally, list all of the things that you would change if you did it all over again. A good place to start is by looking at the list of things that went wrong and going through and writing how each of those things could have been improved. Learn from your mistakes.
Obviously, a lot of the things listed apply to this specific project. I write what I know, right? Feel free to take some of these ideas and apply them to your own. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you can keep track of time spent, number or reps, weight goals for lifting or resistant levels, number of calories consumed and burned, etc.
Again, the most important thing is to document your progress according to the goals you hope to achieve.