Ever Feel like You’re Not Making Any Progress?
Photo courtesy of Jason.

Ever Feel like You’re Not Making Any Progress?

Written by Bev Webb

Topics: Productivity

You know the scenario. You’ve been working away on your book, website, business and various other projects for months and yet, it never feels like you’ve gotten anywhere with any of them.

In practical terms, having multiple projects on the go requires you to divide your time between them. It’s a mathematical fact that you’ll progress more slowly than if you were focused on just the one. Not that it makes it any less frustrating of course.

Having struggled with this for too many years to count, I’ve been looking at ways to soothe the pain. Now before you read the next sentence, I want you to promise you’ll continue to read on … agreed?

OK, I want to talk about the power of doing reviews and of taking stock of your progress.

Still reading? Great, I’m relieved you’re still with us. I totally understand that while reviewing is a very powerful technique, it can also be a huge turn-off for many. You only need to read the word ‘review’ and bang, your interest just left the room.

Please bear with me though, because I’m also going to look at some of the common pitfalls to avoid and how to hack the process to work for you. Certainly if you’ve ever dismissed the idea of doing reviews in the past, then this article is for you.

So what is a review and how do I do one?

OK, let’s start off by defining what a review is actually about. Reviewing is simply a process by which you can look back at what you’ve been working on, so you can monitor your progress and then make decisions about what to do next.

A review can be as long or short, formal or informal as you like, it’s down to you to decide what will work best for your individual needs.

Gathering the evidence

Start off by deciding the timeframe you want to review, for example: the past month, quarter, year etc. and then look back over what you’ve worked on during that time.

To refresh your memory, try looking through your old task and to-do lists, your diary, email correspondence, the blog posts you’ve published, the number of pages you’ve written for your novel, and so on. You’re trying to gather a snapshot of all the activity you’ve done and then making a record of it, which can be either on paper or in a document or spreadsheet.

Confirming progress and making informed decisions

Once you’ve been able to capture a record of your activity you can then review it.
For example:

  • What achievements and small (or big) wins have you had?
  • What worked well and what didn’t?
  • What do you want to do more of and what do you want to toss aside?
  • What lessons have you learned and what changes would you make as you move forward?

Good reviewing practice can boost you up by confirming your successes and inspiring you to do more. It can help you to spot trends and make decisions about which directions to take. It gives you a sense of accomplishment rather than a foreboding fear that you’re getting nowhere.

There’s always an element of experimentation that needs to be done to get the process right, and by right in this context, I mean getting it to work effectively for you. Few things are just black or white, there are usually a multitude of shades of grey in between.

Rather than the traditional Do-list, I thought I’d share my Don’t-list to avoiding some of the pitfalls instead.

1) Don’t do Reviews because You Think you Should

Doing something because you feel you should, rarely works. We’ve all been told we should eat more healthily, do more exercise, give up smoking, drinking and fast food, but few people heed the advice. Not that it’s bad advice, it’s just that we instinctively want to rebel against what we’re told we should do.

Maybe you think it won’t work for you. It’s healthy to be skeptical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. You win some and you lose some, but if you never try then you’ll never know. Try it because you’re curious and want to see what happens.

If it doesn’t work for you, then fine, toss it over your shoulder and move on, but there’s always the chance that it just might.

2) Don’t do Reviews Too Often

Weekly review sessions anyone? Nah, didn’t think so. You’re too busy, I’m too busy, we’re all too busy. Trying to review your progress weekly may well feel more like a chore than a tool that’s supposed to be helping you.

You’ve already got a lot going on in your life, just by being a multipotentialite, so you really don’t want something else to squeeze into your packed schedule. If you feel it’s taking up valuable space that you could use on your projects or business, it’s going to lead to resentment.

From a practical viewpoint too, if you try to measure your progress too often, you run the risk of doing the review before you’ve been able to put much time into your projects. The review process will backfire because all it will do is confirm how little you’ve done.

Try running your review schedule at a complementary pace to the amount of time you can input into your projects or business. I do little reviews about every three months, with a full review once a year, and find that’s frequent enough for me.

It allows me enough time between reviews to make some progress. I can then take delight in seeing that I’ve actually moved forward (or sometimes even completed stuff).

3) Don’t do Reviews with Unwieldy Expectations

In practical terms, having multiple projects on the go, requires you to divide your time between them. For many of us, our projects and businesses are also run on the side. If you have a job, are at college, have family or caring commitments, then it follows that you’ll have less time to invest in your projects.

It doesn’t make them any less important because they’re on the side, it’s purely a practical strategy to fit them in around the rest of your life.

If you’re only able to put in 2 hours a week, then that’s 2 hours further ahead than you were before. It’s all progress, so throw away any unrealistic expectations and put them back inline with the amount of time you can actually input.

4) Don’t Undervalue the Small Wins

When you do a review, note down the progress you’ve made, the milestones you’ve passed and the small wins you’ve made. None of these need to be monumental in scale; lots of little things soon add up to something larger than the sum of its parts.

As Emilie noted in a recent post about the need for a sense of completion: “…when you’re worrying that you’re not accomplishing everything, take a look back over your list and you’ll be amazed at what you have actually gotten done.”

Give yourself a long enough time period to review, and you too could be surprised at how much you’ve really achieved.

Over to You!

Have you ever felt like you’re not making any progress? What techniques have you used to help?

bevBev is an artist, creativity coach and founder of Kickass Creatives, a website offering practical support to frustrated creatives. She’s over 20 years of working in the arts: experimenting with everything from performing in a fire circus and managing a hiphop dance company, through to web consultancy and jewellery design. Bev is passionate about using her experience to enable others to fully develop (rather than hide) their multitude of talents too. Connect with her on Twitter @creativekickass.

5 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Great article Bev. I was feeling like this just this morning. I’ve been camping out in Poland for a few weeks to focus on my business, and have been getting pretty tired. This morning I woke up thinking ‘shit, is I’m pretty much in the same position as when I started’. My main motivation right now is my ‘Target Daily Income’, which is quite a bit below what I was hoping for. Anyhow, I went for a long work into the park with a pen and some paper, and started going through everything… how fast I’m recruiting clients, how much work I’m *actually* doing etc…. turns out, I’m still on target to meet my target daily income in about 5 or 6 months! woot! Turns out, I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.. those little steps didn’t seem to be taking me anywhere, but now I understand it, I’m a lot happier knowing I was moving in the right direction all along :)

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hi Rob. I’m so pleased this has post has come at such an opportune time.

      I love that you say it was a case of not being able “to see the wood for the trees” – it sums it up so well. When you have your head down working on stuff, you can forget to sit up and look at the bigger picture.

      Congrats on being just a few months away from making your daily income target – that truly will be a milestone to celebrate! :)

  2. Sharise says:

    I have totally felt like I’m not making any progress! Many, many times. I don’t do a review like you describe in this post, counting how many posts I’ve written and such (although I can see how that could be helpful), but more of a casual reflection. I think back to when I first started that project or when that situation began and I realize how far I’ve come. Usually I’ve learned a lot, even if I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to. So it’s not true that I’m “not making any progress”, I’m just not progressing as quickly as I wanted to. And yes, it takes time to accept that!

    I try to remind myself that every step is a step closer to what I’m trying to achieve. Even the ones that feel like a step backwards, because I usually learn something from them. Things may not be progressing at the speed I had in mind, but they ARE progressing. I just have to trust the process, and keep believing that I will eventually get to where I want to be.

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hey Sharise!

      I think you nailed it when you said it’s not that you’re not making progress, it’s that it’s not as fast as you’d like! I reckon that’s a universal multipod problem when you have multiple projects on the go.

      Every step you make is a step closer. Keep believing in it and you’ll get there. :)

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