This week we’re going to cover stuck projects.

Despite our best efforts we all have them, that project that’s 2 years old and molding away but sticking it’s head up just enough so that we know it’s around and not quite dead yet.

Let’s start by talking about why/how these projects happen.

Waiting for the client

The primary reason that projects get stuck for me is waiting on the client. I’m currently waiting for one client to enter their eCommerce products. I’ve been waiting for a year.

How about waiting for design feedback or for content…Any of those things will mean that you just don’t get the project done.

One of the steps I’ve taken to minimize this is moving to weekly pricing. If you don’t have the content and the allotted weeks are done then I guess the content isn’t in and we move on.

Secondly I end emails with action. That means that when I present options to clients I end my email with “If I don’t hear from you by $date I’m going to use option A”. If they don’t get back to me then I just do option A. If they wanted option B then we may have to extend the scope of the project and they need to be on the ball with their replies next time.

Now I don’t just give a client 30 minutes to get back to me, usually I go with 24 hours. If I haven’t heard back within the set 24 hours then I’m good to go with the options presented.

Not tracking tasks

When I started freelancing I didn’t really even write down the tasks for the day. When you have no written record of the things you need to do you’re relying on your brain. My brain just isn’t good enough to remember all the tasks that I have to do.

Now I assume that if it’s not written down it didn’t happen (or it won’t happen).

I use the Getting Things Done method to track all my tasks. When I’ve really dug in and followed the methods I’ve been super productive. When I don’t really dig in things fall off my radar.

If you don’t have a way to track tasks get a free Trello account and start tracking your projects. Read my review of Trello to get an idea of how it can be used.

No idea what the next action is

Great you’re tracking tasks but do you really know what the next action is on a project? I’ve got a large eCommerce site to launch and the next task is to get final approval from the client. Then I need FTP/Database access.

‘Launch site’ is not the next task.

Way too often we bite off a huge task that actually requires doing a bunch of sub-tasks to really consider it done. That nebulous task means that when you start the project you first have to waste cognitive power figuring out the next task.

Sit down at your projects now and write down all the tasks so that you know the exact next action to get the project going. Usually that next task is super small and easy to do.

‘Launch site’ becomes ‘send client email for approval’ and then we can get the project back on track.

You dropped the ball

Let’s be honest sometimes we just screw up. I’ve totally dropped the ball on a project before and let it languish and get way past deadline.

Each time that happens I try to evaluate why it happened and take steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Even with that it’s likely that at some point I’ll drop the ball on a project again and it’s just going to stall out with the client waiting for me.

The biggest reason I drop the ball is that I overbook myself. Then the project gets behind and I ‘feel’ bad doing it. That makes the project so much harder to work on at all.

Second to being overbooked is when a project turns into something way larger than originally anticipated. All these tasks start piling up and you’re overwhelmed.

After reading through this are you able to identify why projects get stuck in your business? I hope so.
Tomorrow I’m going to dive into how to get the ball rolling again.

photo credit: Henry Stern via photopin cc