Projects have made the largest positive impact on my career. They have allowed me the greatest opportunity for personal growth and at the same time, deliver value to whomever I’m serving. A very potent combination.

I’m not talking about the projects that I’m assigned from my employer. I’m referring to a specific type of project called a passion project.

While you could turn a work project into a passion project, and I’ve done so on many occasions, a passion project is a project that you initiate yourself as an opportunity for professional growth and delivers value to others.

If you find that you’ve lost your passion for your work, starting a passion project could be just what you need to reinvigorate your career.

The PROJECTS Checklist covers three fundamental productivity principles:

First, how to turn your goals into projects.

Second, how to transform any project into a passion project.

Third, how to increase the chances of your passion project being a success.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each one.

The Next Level

The next level is the number one career goal that you’ve established for yourself.

Perhaps you are looking for that next promotion, you wish to establish yourself as a trusted professional, or maybe you are looking to transition from an individual contributor to a management role.

We are going to go deeper into creating your next level goal in a later checklist. For now, choose a direction for your career as we move into the next step.

Brainstorm

Now that you’ve selected your next level goal, it’s time to turn it into reality.

The first item on the PROJECTS checklist is to identify 5 to 7 projects, that when completed, will move you toward your next level goal.

Kory Kogon, the author of “Project Management For The Unofficial Project Manager,” defines a project as: “A temporary endeavour with a start and finish undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”

With this definition in mind, brainstorm a list of projects that you could complete that will help you achieve the next level.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • learn to code (or build an app)
  • start a reading/learning group in your company (around any topic)
  • master your personal finances
  • take an online course
  • develop public speaking skills
  • read a book about leadership
  • build a personal website or blog

Begin With The End In Mind

Projects, unlike habits, have a finish. If you don’t have a clear picture of your end goal, you will never complete your projects.

The second habit from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey is “Begin with the end in mind.”

Covey writes, “Begin with the end in mind is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.”

For your projects to be a success, you need to know what done looks like. Otherwise, they will grow and morph, and end up in your pile of neglected and unfinished projects.

Review each of your projects and craft a “what does done look like” statement. Keep is simple, just a few bullet points will work.

Maximum 90 Days

To keep your projects manageable, I suggest keeping them within a 90-day window.

If your project is larger than 90 days, split into two or more phases of less than 90 days each.

Keep in mind that we have a tendency to overestimate what we can complete in the short term and underestimate what is possible in the long term.

So lean toward making your projects smaller than larger.

Establish Flow

One of the common questions that I receive is “How much of a stretch should I make my goals?”

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from his classic book “Flow,” we perform at our best at the point where the level of difficulty and our level of skill meet.

If it’s too difficult a challenge, we will give up with frustration.

If it’s too easy a challenge and well within our abilities, we will quickly get bored and turn to something else.

You want to push at the edges of your comfort zone, to create projects that are challenging yet match your current skill level.

Connect With Why

The fifth item on the PROJECTS Checklist is to “identify the why behind each of your projects.”

Your motivation and commitment to complete your projects may be high at this moment. However, at about the halfway point, you will start to question why you are doing this in the first place.

To ensure that you actually complete what you’ve started, it’s essential to establish your why in advance.

For each of your projects, jot down a few points as to why this project is important. Think of something that will help the future you, something that will inspire you when you hit the messy middle.

Choose Your Passion Project

Now it’s time to choose your passion project.

Your passion project is your number one project that, when completed, will move you one step closer to achieving the next level.

I look at three things when selecting my passion project.

  1. Does it excite me? (It’s called a passion project for a reason)
  2. Does it help me grow?
  3. Does it have a positive impact?

Review each of your projects based on these criteria and select your passion project.

Stay Focused

The biggest mistake that you can do at this point is to start working on ALL of your projects at the same time. This is a recipe for failure.

In the NOW Checklist, I told you to stop multitasking. The same rule applies to your projects.

Only work on one project at a time and stick with it until done.

Get started on your passion project and ignore everything else until it is completed. Repeat this process every 90 days.

In Summary

As you can see, the PROJECTS Checklist covers a lot of ground in the area of goal setting and achievement.

First, create a list of projects that are aligned with your next level career goal.

Second, identify a clear outcome for each that you can complete within the next 90 days.

Third, select your passion project and don’t work on anything else until it’s complete.

Projects are the “work” that is required to achieve your goals, in the next article in this series, I will show you how to produce consistent results by mastering your habits.

P.S. What’s one thing that you are going to apply today? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments below.

The Ultimate Goal Setting Checklist

Everything you need to know about setting goals that you can actually achieve.

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