How to Know When You Should Work on a Different Project

posted in: Productivity 2

Image of a woman smiling and holding up thumbs-up and thumb-down and the phrase, How to Know When You Should Work on a Different ProjectYou’ve been working on a work or a personal project for the past several weeks.

You’ve made good progress, but for some reason, you can’t seem to gain the momentum you once had.

You’re not under an urgent deadline, so you could put this thing off for a while.

The only question is, should you continue on, or should you give yourself a break?

Pushing through a problem isn’t always the best, or most productive solution.

In this post, I offer a couple of situations when it might be in your best interest to put a project on hold, and come back to it at a later date.

You can’t move things forward.

You’ve tried to schedule meetings, revise documents, and get those product quotes you so desperately need.

Yet for some reason, no matter how hard you try, you end up at square one.

People aren’t returning your calls, information isn’t coming in, and no matter how many hours you put in, you’re not getting much in return.

This is one of those times where no matter how hard you try to push a project forward, it ends up being pushed backwards in terms of its overall progress.

Consider for a moment that this may not be the right time to work on that project. There is a time and a place for everything, projects included! If you think this is a bit far-fetched, just think about similar project from your past.

You pushed and pleaded, but weren’t able to make that project move. After taking a short break, all the stars seemed to align, and you were able to finish what you started in a relatively short period of time. If pushing forward isn’t working for you, let the item rest for a bit. You can always come back to it in future.

You’ve been blinded the routine of day-to-day work.

The rhythm of every day life is quite predictable: you wake up, eat breakfast, bathe, get dressed, and head to work or school, only to come home and start the next day the very same way. The same idea applies when it comes your projects. You can be so intently focused on your work, that all you can see are those little everyday tasks. The problem is that you’re completely missing the big picture.

If a project seems to have no end in sight, perhaps you’re doing the seemingly same type of work, day-in, and day-out, with no break, it might be a good idea to change your perspective. Live outside of that daily work flow by foregoing the details, and looking at the larger picture.

Take a step out of your daily routine, and look at the project in terms of weeks, months, and years. Why are you working on this project? What will this project produce? How does this project relate to your personal or professional goals?

If you’re having trouble answering these questions, and can only see the daily grind work in your mind’s eye, it might be a wise decision to take a giant step back, and work on something else for a little while.

You realize the time is right for something else.

You’re working on two projects at work. You’ve been steadily plugging away on Project One for several weeks, to no avail.  Project Two, however, seems to be picking up speed, all of a sudden, on it’s own.

You’ve finally heard your funding proposal was approved, your business contacts say the deal is in on, and those promotional items are finally back in stock.

Should you continue on with Project One, or should you start focusing on what’s going on in Project Two?

This situation is somewhat similar to the first situation I described. Instead of pausing a project, however, there will be times when it is the right time work on something. Most likely, there will be ample hints thrown about. You’ll quickly hear back from contacts, the right documents will come to you at the right time, and decisions will be made rather quickly.

Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand, but to stand up, and take charge! The time is right for action, and for you to change your focus, and get things done.

How about you? Do you try to push through a stubborn project, no matter what, or do you find that it’s much more fruitful to take a break? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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2 Responses

  1. Mathias

    This is an interesting post – it’s always hard to know when to quit a project.

    Being an economist at heart, whenever I feel stuck with something, I sit down and do a cost-analysis (potential gains from finishing the project Vs. potential gains from dropping it). If it turns out that I would gain more from freeing up my time, I don’t hesitate to drop the project and move on to something else.

    Nice write-up!

    • Rashelle

      Thanks, Mathias, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Of course, in the post I made some broad generalizations and didn’t account for other factors such as delivering projects to clients, but I hope people will at least consider every now and then whether it is worth pursuing something that clearly isn’t working. Thank you for reading and for your comment!