Maybe you can relate to this scenario.
You start working on a task, maybe writing that guest post for that big blog on which you want to get published. You get two-thirds of the way done and then you need a break. You take your break. Then you try to go back to it, but your brain doesn’t feel like writing anymore. It wants you to use a different part of your brain, to change things up. Your multipotentialite need for variety kicks in.
So instead of finishing the article, you take a look at the other projects on your roaster. Maybe you decide to use the auditory part of your brain and continue mixing your album, which you’ve been working on for the last three months. You do that for a couple hours, and then your eyes begin to glaze over.
Perhaps then you shift to clearing out your inbox, but you have so many emails, that you are only able to respond to half of them.
Suddenly, it’s almost the end of the day and you feel as though you have accomplished nothing.
The truth is that you’ve gotten a lot done. You put a good chunk of time into that guest post, you made some solid progress on your album, and you’ve lessened your inbox clutter by 50%.
But it doesn’t always feel like you’ve completed a lot, does it? Nothing actually got finished.
Sometimes, it feels as though you’ve gotten nothing done, because you haven’t hit any end points. That post is unfinished, that album is unfinished, that inbox clearing is unfinished. So much is unfinished, and it all feels like even more of a mess now since you’ve opened up all these new cans of worms!
It can be enough to make you want to throw it all in and attempt a life of specialization. (That is until you get bored with that and crave the variety again. Can’t fight who you are.)
So, what is a multipotentialite to do? How do you focus on several projects, while still experiencing that sense of completion?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Break it down
This may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to get a sense of completion is to break down your larger projects into small tasks and just aim to accomplish one of these at a time.
2. Plan out a weekly list of goals
One day might not be enough time to get a sense of completion on any one project, but if you zoom out and write down a weekly list of tasks to complete then you will be able to get that feeling of completion at least once a week. I got this idea from my friend Jon, who’s also the Director of Tribe Happiness in the Puttytribe.
Every Sunday, write down your list of goals for the week. This will give you more time to work on your projects and allow you to relax a little when at the end of a day, you feel like you haven’t completed anything. Now it’s okay because you have the rest of the week to get to it.
3. Pair up a small task with a long-term project
Instead of working on two longer-term projects in one day, try working on one long-term project and one task for a project that can be easily completed in a few hours. This will allow you to make progress on your long-term project, while still experiencing that nice feeling of completion.
Another way to do this is to spread it out over your week. Spent a day or two only knocking out those smaller, more urgent tasks. Then dedicate your Thursday and Friday to your long-term projects.
Getting those pressing tasks out of the way, will give you a sense that you’ve gotten your work done, and will allow you to relax. You can even see working on your long-term project as a reward for knocking out those smaller, quicker to complete tasks. Then you can relax and give yourself the gift of not having to worry about completing anything.
4. Shoot for just one project per day
This works better for some multipotentialites than others. If you’re someone who likes to go deep for many hours before shifting gears, then you might want to simply assign one project to each day of your week. This will allow you to get that feeling of completion more easily.
This used to be my main productivity technique: one central project or task per day. Lately, however, I’ve been finding that I want more variety in my days.
That’s fine. We all go through periods where we want to focus on one project only (I call this being a sequential multipotentialite) and other times when we need to switch between multiple modes of thought (and hence, more projects) regularly. This can fluctuate, but if you’re in a place where you can focus on one project only for a day or week or longer, then use that and go all out on your project.
5. Celebrate your Small Wins
In the Puttytribe, we have a section of the Forum for celebrating your small wins. No matter how small (or big), that is the place where you can let everybody know what you’ve gotten done.
Even if you don’t have a group of supportive people to share your accomplishments with, it’s really important to take note of the fact that you have indeed gotten work done, even though it might not initially feel that way.
Buy yourself a notebook or keep a document on your computer, and list all of your Small Wins. It doesn’t matter how small they are, write them down. Then when you’re worrying that you’re not accomplishing everything, take a look back over your list and you’ll be amazing at what you have actually gotten done.
Oh yeah, and celebrate. Give yourself a real pat on the back and acknowledge your wins. It’s important and will help give you the momentum to get even more done. Also, start learning to notice and correct those inner voices when they say “I didn’t get enough done today.” Look back at your list or progress and say, “No, inner bully, that’s just not true! Chill.”
6. Put a Project on your Back-burner List and/or Assign it to a Future Week or Month
Remember that there’s plenty of time to get to all of your passions and projects. Don’t feel bad that you haven’t been able to study functional medicine yet (Yes, I’m talking to myself here). Instead, tell yourself that this interest will be your main focus for the month of, say, September. But right now your main priority is to finish up your current projects.
Remember that all of your projects you choose to pursue will get their time in the light. You don’t have to deny your future projects completely either. You can explore these interests in little bits right now, during your Scanning Time.
Finding Joy in the Work Itself
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been lagging on a project that you really want to focus your efforts on. A regular feeling of completion, or at least that you’re making headway, is important. It keeps you moving forward and makes you feel effective.
However, you also want to start shifting away from ends-based thinking. Learn to derive joy, not from the fruits of your labour, but from the work itself. The Hard Work, that flow state, that is what matters.
Yes, deliverables are important too, but only insofar as they launch you into action and allow you to get into a flow state. THIS is where the magic happens. The work itself is your prize.
How do you get a sense of completion when you have multiple, long-term projects on the go?