5 Reasons Your Project is Going Nowhere

I get it. You're busy. Maybe you have a family, maybe you don't. Maybe you spend too many hours at the office, and volunteer for those extra projects that end up with thankless overtime, forgetting (or likely, not) that you're on salary and not by the hour. And then you get home and the last thing you want to think about is being productive. But you feel guilty and mad at yourself. How am I ever going to finish these projects when I'm tired, busy, unmotivated...?  I get it.

Here are some of the reasons why your projects are going nowhere.

  1. You haven't prioritized yourself. Do you want to work for someone else forever? Will you be happy simply cutting a paycheck from a company for the rest or your life, or do you need to finally step out on your own? If it's truly important to you to gain that independence, you need to prioritize it. Not just with your spouse, your family, your extracurricular commitments - with yourself. Reserve some time to sit, think, and write down the reasons that you want to invent, innovate, and go into business for yourself. It will help put things into perspective and get you excited about it.
  2. You haven't planned. Many of us spend hours doing rigorous planning at work, as even the most Agile projects require targets. But when it comes to our own ideas, we're happy to waffle along, bit by bit (sometimes literally), and waste lots of time by not having a goal. The only way to keep ourselves on task it by proper planning, milestones, and deadlines. Do it for yourself just like you would for that important project at work. Think about getting some project management training, like this practical course from CPD aimed at engineers.
  3. You let everything else get in the way. Other things will try and grab your attention. There will always be a new crisis at home or at work. But if you've properly prioritized and planned, you can adapt and handle these as they happen, without sacrificing your core targets and milestones. But you have to have those milestones in the first place in order to stay accountable to them.
  4. You've overestimated your capability. I know, we don't want to hear this one, but we do it all the time. You've planned your project, but you've given yourself precious little time to skill up on the things you don't know. You assume they'll be easy, whether you're a mechie that needs to learn to program PLCs or a software engineer that just bought some tools and figures milling aluminum can't be that hard. Either give yourself a wider berth and build in some education and trial/error time, or use a site like this one to supplement your own resourcefulness with some others that can help you along.
  5. You're a starter, not a finisher. I wish this one didn't apply to me so much, but sometimes I have the attention span of a chipmunk. Half-finished pieces of this and that lying around (physically or virtually) everywhere. There isn't much to be done here except not allowing yourself to start on that next big thing until the current big thing is done.

Now get out there and finish...anything!

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  • NOW THAT'S GOOD ADVICE! But I agree that number 2 can be a stickler for people who can 'plan' by drawing millions of images, thousands of schematics and hundreds of BOM revisions - which built absolutely nothing. In the end, you just need to take an idea and make a first off - even if it's barely there, just so you are well begun. The next fear is that you will actually have lots of well started things that never get finished. In the end, you need a date, a diary date, anything that says "I should've done this by now". For most I know, this is the biggest fall down, number 5 is alive - and well.

  • I believe that a technical background provides us the ability to accomplish early aspects of our projects. This may involve prototypes, models or even insight to create a vision of the completion of our goal. However, as we know it can't stop there. We need to cross over several other disciplines to make it all happen to completion. Most projects fail when it gets to marketing, packaging and other product realization aspects. Fortunately, for us Engineers we have so many tools available to us on the computer to help us bridge these gaps. 

    I recall early in my career designing a "Leak Alert" water leak detector for the home. It was a very nifty design, it worked out standing and was certainly a device I envisioned most people could use under their kitchen sink. Unfortunately a computer was not available to me and the internet was not invented. So I had this great vision and the technical know how to make it happen. I fabricated prototypes, tested them and generated documentation because that is what I knew how to do. But after that the project came to a screeching halt. I had all the competency to get me to that point in the project but after that I was not confident I understood the process. Therefore I became #2, #4 and #5...

    Now we have Google, YouTube instructions and infinite internet capability. (did I say infinite? Yikes)

    So you have to really pick projects that you enjoy so it will be “fun” not really work plus we all like a good challenge  Use all available resources to bridge the sticky points that are not in our area of expertise. If you don’t understand something then figure it out.

    After all, isn’t that what us Engineers do? 

  • 4 and 5 could not be more true, but I think there is an equal and opposite to number 2 - You planned too much. Making a list does not make a project.

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