Why It Always Takes Longer than You Planned

It’s February. In other words, it’s not January. I said I was re-launching this site in January. And yet, it’s not re-launched.Deadlines

Everything is ready. Really, I have all the design done. I have the backend done. I have the free content done. (You’ll love it… it’s a cheat sheet to help you with all your marketing planning. If you sign up there on the right with your e-mail, I’ll make sure to notify you when it’s available.)

Now all I have to do is get it to work all together. Well, maybe I should have a few people take a look at the cheat sheet and make sure it’s really great and doesn’t have any huge errors. Or typos. Or obscenities. (Is it OK to say “crappy”?) And then I need to test the site and the mailer and backend. It’s super exciting. And also much more time-consuming than I originally planned.

Why does everything turn out to be so time-consuming?

As humans, we tend to be optimistic about how long things will take. Along the way, somewhere, we compromise on quality. If we make a conscious decision not to compromise on quality, ever, that deadline could stretch forever. You want to strike a balance.

Sometimes, it’s a fine line between excellence and obsessiveness.

I recently decided to get something for a friend’s birthday present (spoiler alert for friend whose birthday is on Feb 10th, in case you are reading this blog).

If you’re still reading, you aren’t that friend, or you didn’t take the warning to heart.

I wanted to get the friend a playlist of the best music from the Date with Destiny event we attended in December. I thought, no problem, and looked online for playlists of songs used by Tony Robbins at his events. There were a lot of playlists with a lot of songs. A lot. So I made a Google Doc, thinking I’ll just share the doc with him. I came up with a spreadsheet of 250 lines. OK, maybe not so useful.

This is stage 1 where your project is about to fail. You realize that what you thought was involved is a complete illusion, and you need to change most of the plan. With this blog, it was when I realized that the WordPress theme wasn’t enough and I needed both a programmer and an artist to help me out.

Next step. No problem. I just need to pick the best of the upbeat songs on that list, and set up a YouTube playlist for those. At this point, I started thinking, this is a lot of work. I don’t know why I am doing all this work. Except that, at this point, I also wanted to get the playlist for myself, because I’m starting get addicted to the good mood these songs generate. Oh, sorry. I’m not saying my friend isn’t worth it or anything. (Just in case you are that friend. Or some other friend who might have the impression that I would potentially go out of my way for you some day.)

This is stage 2 where your project might fail. With this blog, suddenly the artist had another rush job and the programmer got sick and was out for a week mysteriously.

On 90% of projects, “other people” don’t perform the way you wish they did. Regardless of your own performance, you always notice that they are the ones falling down on the job, not you. This is the moment you need to re-energize. In most projects, dance music isn’t built-in, so you need to re-inspire yourself and your team members. Dance music recommended.

I had a “short” list of maybe 70 songs. I gave 5 stars only to those which made me move my body, no matter how bad I felt before the song came on or who was watching (and complaining about my poor dancing skills, in the case of my offspring).

In the web site, I ended up finding all kinds of little fixes and tweaks which needed managing. This last push can be the easiest part of any project, but it’s almost always the most frustrating because you are “almost there”. Oh, not quite. (Unlike sports, where almost there is really almost there, in real life, tweaks never end.)

Finally! I had a short list, purchased the songs, burned them onto a disk-on-key, and sent them by snail. I don’t even know if it will work, because maybe Apple doesn’t allow that, and he has a Mac while I’m PC. I’m borderline with the snail making it there on time.

That was a helluva lot of effort for nothing. Good thing I wrote the birthday card on a piece of paper using a pen with regular ink. That will work.

And the last stage of any project when you launch and — Oh, snap! That wasn’t quite right! But it’s out there and now fixing it is “the next project”. SUCCESS!

Yesterday, I took the playlist, put it on my Android and went for a run. Best. Run. Ever. I had to turn the music off to cool down because that music made me MOVE. It was a fairly long run, and I could easily have kept going if I kept that music going. After all that toil, I had created something which was functional, valuable and, in fact, truly a thing of beauty (at least to me).

The music made me think about doing things right. It’s so much easier to compromise on something half-assed. There’s nothing wrong with the blog as it is. It’s just not as good as I want it to be. It’s not fun looking at my blog and thinking, “it’s OK”. So I put in a bit more cash. I put in a bit more time. I went back and forth with my designer 10 times on my business cards.

My business cards! Who cares? It’s just a business card!

I care. And ultimately, you care. I’m not here to waste your time. You’re not here to waste your time.

Brian Tracy says that there are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic deadlines. If you’ve stretched yourself and made the goal and deadline challenging, there’s a risk of missing the deadline. At the same time, choosing ambitious deadlines will consistently yield better results than choosing “realistic” ones. If I’d said end of March, I would have made the deadline. But it definitely wouldn’t be done by mid-February.

Whenever you do anything, you have a choice. Do it right or do it mediocre. All of us can tell the difference between something of quality and something that is just functional. Who do you want to be? I know who I want to be.

It will be another week or two before I launch this site and make the marketing cheat-sheet available. When it’s ready, it will be READY. You’ll love it. It will be valuable to the audience (technology marketers).

What about you? When was the last time you decided to extend a deadline to get it done right? When was the last time you abandoned a project because it was bigger than you thought? When are you going back to it? You can always just keep going!

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Rebecca Rachmany



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