Dreaded Projects

There are always those projects that we dread doing. We put them off and go out of our way to avoid doing them or ever thinking about them. I recently  worked with a client who was tap dancing around her own version of a dreaded project and wanted to share the steps we worked through to de-escalate the dread.

Get to the root of the dread.

For many of us, we avoid projects that we know will be challenging or that relate to an area of law that we aren’t comfortable with. We put them off because actually doing the project drives home our discomfort with the subject matter. We don’t like being reminded of what we don’t know and it is uncomfortable to wade through uncharted legal mazes.

If it is simply discomfort with a difficult task, the best way to uproot the problem is to break it into bite-sized pieces and schedule them (i.e., GYST). If it’s a large document that needs to be reviewed or a looming diligence project, break it down into segments and schedule time during your week to attend to each segment of the project. If it’s a research project, schedule separate blocks to time to dig into each relevant area of law. Whatever the breakdown may be, it’s easier to tackle the unknown and discomfort when we can do it in small doses.

Furthermore, this approach will force you to get started right away — there is no room to delay the project until the very last minute as we often want to do with these types of things. Take your time, learn what the project has to offer and take it piece by piece.

No one builds a house in a day. Treat the assignment like a construction project and build it brick by brick, day by day. Stop looking at the massive scale of the project and focus on each piece and what it can teach you.

If there is another reason you are avoiding the project–you don’t like the client or the partner–that’s a whole different issue and is going to require you to do some work on your brain. But that doesn’t mean the above concept will be lost on you. If the root of the problem comes from the parties involved, you can utilize the above approach to dip your toes into that relationship pond little by little and practice managing your mind with each step.

Get factual.

My most recent client had a project that she was dreading. She had made time on her calendar to address the project but kept feeling temped to move it. She explained that it was a massive project with lots of interconnected documents and disclosures. She had made significant headway on the project but was avoiding taking the final steps.

When you find yourself hesitating to jump into a project like this, it is likely because your brain has created some drama around the project. In this case, my client believed that the project was “massive.” So, we spent some time unpacking what she meant by massive. How much more time is needed for the project? What are the exact steps you will need to take to get through this segment of the project? Is there a way that you can bring in additional support?

While the project itself may or may not have actually been “massive,” my client was believing that it was. That sent her mind down a dramatic spiral and set her up for avoidance. In reality, the segment of the project waiting for her on her calendar that day would require only one hour and would allow her to lean on her paralegal for additional support. We realized that most of the work for that part of the project was already done; she simply needed to get her head back into the project, do some issue spotting, and utilize her team. When we set aside the drama and looked at the exact next steps, the project was no longer something to be dreaded, it was much simpler than she was allowing her self to believe.

When we allow our brains to tell us that a project is “massive…horrible…never-ending…pointless,” we set ourselves up for failure. We are going to struggle finding motivation to tackle projects when we believe that we are in for some sort of legal gauntlet. We have to recognize the drama that we have created and sift through it.

How much time is needed for the project?

Can you break it into smaller chunks?

Is it appropriate to bring in additional support?

Have you decided to believe that you are the only one that can do it all? Is that true?

By doing it “all” are you making your greatest contribution or is some of the work better suited for others?

What are the EXACT steps that you will need to execute for each chunk of the project.

We have to be aware of our brain’s tendency to create drama. In those moments when our brain is telling us that the sky is falling, we have to take a step back and sift through the facts. What we often find, much like my client, is that the drama in our brains is a lot of smoke and mirrors and underneath it all are tasks and challenges that we are more than equipped to handle.

Let go of the drama and start dominating your project list; it’s so much more fun than worrying about your projects.

Sometimes all it takes is an outside perspective to help you see it. Reach out for some free support if you find your days clouded with avoidance and self-doubt; I’d love to show you a better way to practice.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Recommended Articles