Take a quick look at your current project list, and notice what kinds of names you’ve given your projects and tasks.
Do you have a “Sales” project, or projects named “Increase current account sales 5% this quarter” and “Generate 20 new leads”?
On a personal level, do you have “Spend more time with family and friends” as a goal? Do you have self-improvement projects that say that, or ones that are called “September dinner party with the neighbors” and “Week Vacation with Family in Boundary Waters”?
I’m finding more and more that the phrasing of those project names makes a big difference. “September Dinner Party” is a project you can finish. “Spend more time with friends”, even if there are specific events in there that will make that happen, is probably not something you’ll ever cross off your list as having completed to your satisfaction. You know when they are done, you can complete them, and replace them with the next specific project that fits with your bigger goals of growing your company, improving your personal life, etc. Giving your projects a clear, specific outcome as a name means you can win.
It’s a lot harder to feel like you’re making progress when the stuff you’re working on never goes away. Think of the difference between looking at your to-do list at the end of the week and seeing that you’ve crossed off 75 things, which meant two projects were finished and the rest closer to completion. Or looking at those same 75 things and knowing you’ve done some work that inched you along a list of things that will never be finished and never end, even if you’d cranked through 100 items instead of those 75.
Be specific. Make your project names reflect the outcome you want. And enjoy the satisfaction of being able to mark things DONE.
For more reading:
- Maurice Gavin at GTD Times on Delegating the Desired Outcome
- Michael Dolan at the David Allen Company on The Power of Successful Outcome Thinking
- Merlin Mann at 43 folders on Foo for Bar: Kicking Ass with Outcome-Based Thinking