Start Any Personal Project by Answering These 7 Questions
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got several goals lined up in 2020 that are really important to you. Some of these goals might take the form of personal projects.
A personal project could be anything ranging from organizing your wardrobe to more complex things like designing an app or changing your career.
Starting a challenging project is not easy. Drawing from my experience of achieving several personal projects including producing films and moving countries, I’ve tried to summarize the 7 Questions you need to answer which will get you started with your project in no time.
To finally start a personal project and avoid postponing it, you need a basic plan for that you can refer to throughout your project. This should answer at least 7 basic questions including why it is important for you to pursue this particular project, who needs to be involved in it, the scope of your project, what the main steps are to achieve it when you will start and for how long you will work on it, what the budget, and what the risks are.
Don’t pressure yourself to answer these 7 questions perfectly. Grab a sheet of paper and try to answer all of these questions below briefly on this one sheet. Having short and basic answers is better than nothing at all. You can always go into more detail later on.
1. Why Do I Want to Work on This Personal Project?
With limited time and an abundance of things on our to-do lists, we need to have clarity on why we choose to work on this particular project instead of others.
Why do we choose to spend time, effort, and energy on this?
What is the vision or purpose behind making this a priority?
Clarifying this will helps us stay on track and prevent us from getting distracted from seemingly more interesting things that pop-up on the way.
When I decided to make my youtube channel an ongoing project, among others my purpose was that I wanted to improve my skills in creating short-form content, as opposed to becoming youtube famous. The importance of this is, that at times when I get demotivated or get off-track, I can easily remind myself of why I started making youtube videos in the first place.
2. Who Needs to Be Involved?
Think about whether you will need the support of other people to achieve your project. This can include people who work directly on your project as well as people which you count on for advice and moral support.
When making my first feature film, I needed a team of Producers as well as many other crew members to make it happen. Then we also shortlisted the names of people who we think needed to be involved in our project and started informal discussions with them to develop our ideas and plans.
Even for projects on which you work alone, such as writing blog posts or programming, you might need to get support from other people. These can be mentors who you can ask for advice and tips, or family members or friends you can discuss with.
3. What Is the Scope of the Personal Project?
Be specific in defining the scope of your personal project.
Let’s say that you want to renovate your house.
What will you specifically do and what will you not do?
Does your project include changing the plumbing, installing a solar panel system on your roof, and upgrading your kitchen equipment? Or is it limited to repainting the kitchen cabinets and changing the bathroom tiles?
Knowing what is included and not included in your project will help you to work in a more targeted and efficient way.
4. How Will You Carry out the Project and What Tools Do You Need?
Try to list the most important resources that you will need to work on your project.
If the project is to cook a dish, then question number 4 would be: ‘What is the recipe?’ What steps do I need to follow to cook the dish, and what tools will I need?
If you find yourself overwhelmed about the scope of your project, then you might want to consider scaling it down. An alternative would be to break up the project into several sub-projects.
Once you have an idea of the steps needed to accomplish your project, you’ll find it less intimidating to start.
5. When Will You Start and for How Long Will You Work on the Project?
To avoid postponing your project, pick a kick-off date on which you will start working on it. Note it in your calendar and treat it as a commitment toward yourself.
It is difficult to know for sure how long it will take to finish a project. But having an estimated timeline is better than none at all.
A timeline will prevent us from dragging out the project indefinitely and help us to work more efficiently and targeted toward our end goal.
It can also manage our expectations along the way as we are prepared that finishing the project will take a certain amount of time. This will prevent us from constantly asking ourselves ‘when will I finally finish?’
As time is a limited resource and there are likely many things you want to do, knowing how much time you will likely need to work on the project can also help you decide:
Do I really want to do this? Is this really my priority compared to project A, B, or C?
6. What Is The Budget and How Will You Finance Your Project?
The larger your project, the more thoroughly you need to plan the budget.
But for this stage, simply make a first draft of your budget using rough estimates. Having one is better than none at all.
Making a budget will help you to decide if you ultimately want to go forward with the project or not.
If you find out that the budget required is too large, you can also decide to scale down the project or break it up into 2 or more projects or phases.
If the budget is more or less fixed, but you don’t have enough funds at the moment, you will need to plan how you will finance your personal project. Perhaps this means saving up some money or getting a loan from the bank.
In some circumstances, after setting up your budget, you might even be positively surprised to find out that your project is not going to cost that much at all, and that you can totally afford it right now.
Another reason to start sooner!
7. What Are the Risks?
Oftentimes people don’t get started with a project because they are secretly afraid of how it might turn out.
“What if I fail?”
“What if I lose all the money?”
“How will it affect my reputation?”
These are all questions that if left unanswered prevent us from starting our personal project.
If we want to make a decision to go forward with our project, we need to clearly identify the main risks and the extent of the risks.
A simple first question to ask ourselves could be ‘What is the worst-case scenario?’
If you are afraid of losing money, ask yourself how much you would lose in the worst-case? Are you willing to risk this?
What would exactly happen if you’d failed? Would it be the end of the world, or can you come up with a plan B?
Do I want to go forward nevertheless, knowing that I’m exposing myself to these risks?
Risks are not bad per se. Risks need to be identified and managed.
After all, most things that are worthwhile are achieved by exposing ourselves to some risks.
Starting a personal project can be daunting.
Having so many other things going on in our lives, it can be difficult to start something new. Oftentimes, the beginnings are the hardest.
Having clarity about the 7 things above will make it much easier to start your personal project. You take the mystery out of the project by defining your project clearly.
By answering these 7 questions, you will have your one-pager that will guide you throughout your personal project. Each time you resume working on your project, instead of reinventing your thought process from the beginning, you can refer to this as your personal guideline or user manual containing the basics you need.
You will have more confidence to start, knowing that you’ve already given some thought to the most important things related to your project. And once you’ve started, you can work on detailing out your project plan in more detail, if necessary.
So, what is the project that you want to start in 2020? Do you have the answers to the 7 questions above?