While team projects can be challenging due to the need to coordinate and organize efforts, solo work is frequently even more stressful–especially when you’re working on a short timeline. Here are some tips to help you crush a solo gig so you can make your customer happy and cross it off your list.
1. Visualize the Endgame
Being solely responsible for the execution and delivery of a project can be stressful. You have a lot on your shoulders, and the doing part can be difficult, especially when there’s no solid goal in your sights.
To create your own goals, spend some time thinking about what the customer has asked for. Then objectify your mission by proposing a discrete list of deliverables and getting buy-in from your customer. This is a great way to turn abstract ideas into real things that are easier to visualize.
Creating a tangible list of deliverables–and getting your customer on board with it –can boost your camaraderie and your customer’s confidence in your ability. It can also provide the push you need to get your project off the ground and headed in the right direction.
2. Have a Daily Sync…Even with Yourself!
It can be hard to maintain steady momentum when you are working solo. When you’re focused on doing, you can easily find yourself heading down the wrong path with blinders on, mis-spending time and money.
To avoid these misdirections, make a habit of starting your day by revisiting your end game and your strategies for getting there. Doing this at the beginning of each day will help you help you get back into gear, review what you’ve been doing, and realign your efforts. This practice will keep you on track to achieve the goals you have identified and clarified with the customer.
3. Step Away Periodically
While it is great to have a daily sync, it’s still easy to lose focus and get caught up in details that do not warrant the attention we are giving them. I find that getting up, walking around, and making small talk with co-workers helps refresh and reaffirm my direction.
For more details on how, when, and why to take a break, see my post on Losing Focus.
4. Get a Partner
While the pointers above are helpful, it’s still easy to get into ruts and become unproductive. Even though we may be busting our asses and cranking through challenges, seeing the forest for the trees can become increasingly difficult as the days, and maybe months, wear on.
Even when I’m officially working solo, I have found it very helpful to rope someone in so I can run a few ideas past them. They don’t need to be dedicated to the project, and they may not even know anything about it. However, I’ve found that just explaining what I’m doing can help me come to terms with where I am and and give me fuel to keep plowing ahead.
Having a shoulder to lean on is priceless!
I’d love to hear your approaches to working solo.