We all have one. A ‘too hard’ basket. And, sometimes, there are so many things in the damn basket that it can erode our confidence knowing we could possibly find so many things too hard! So what can you do to get those projects out of the ‘too hard’ basket once and for all?

Often, when the basket gets full there is no imperative to take action because a situation hasn’t reached a critical point.

Projects like:

  • Redesigning your website. You already have a website that works. And, even though you know it could be better, you don’t have the time to create new designs, find a graphics person, or engage the services of a new developer.
  • Changing banks. I mean, you’re not over the moon with your current bank but the thought of changing all your accounts and providing all that ID is the last thing you want to do. Not to mention all the automatic direct debits you need to re-organise and the administration for a new credit card. So you stick with the devil you know.
  • Conceptualising a new marketing campaign. You have a great product which is selling at a reasonable rate. However, if you want to take it to the next level and sell its socks off, it’s going to need a big marketing push. This takes time, money and brain power.

You get the idea. You may recognise some of these – or you’ll have your own ‘too hard’ basket with specific projects that make you wince every time you look at them. The reality is that none of these projects are ‘too hard’. So let’s break down how to tackle them.

1. Set a deadline.

Set a real deadline you’re going to stick to. Too often, the projects/tasks on our list don’t get crossed off because they are open ended. We say we’ll get around to them ‘one day’ or ‘when it’s quieter at work’. The reality is that time never comes. And four years later you’re STILL talking about switching to a new bank. So set yourself a deadline and stick to it.

2. Break down your project into individual tasks.

Even when you set yourself a deadline, there’s a chance you won’t stick to it if you haven’t broken down your project into manageable tasks. Like when you say ‘Redesign website by 17 September’.

Redesigning a website is a mammoth task. And if you don’t break it down into separate tasks – and give each task its own realistic deadline – then your project will remain in your ‘too hard’ basket forever.

Too often, people ignore projects for YEARS simply because they seem too daunting. Instead, invest the time in breaking down each step of the project so that every action is actionable by a certain date. Sometimes, it only takes a solid 30 to 60 minutes to map out an entire project. But that’s time well spent if it means you will actually follow the map!

3. Don’t be afraid to say no to a supplier or consultant.

I see this A LOT. Your project needs external help, so you call in consultants. Or you get quotes from suppliers. But you know in your gut that none of them are the right fit. Instead of being upfront with your supplier and tell them that they may not be the right collaborator – so that you can move on to find one that is – you avoid the conversation. This particularly happens if they’ve put a lot of work into the quote. So you simply don’t make a decision – and keep the project in the ‘too hard’ basket.

I’ve done this before and it’s not fair on the supplier. And it won’t do you – or your project – any favours. If you know that a supplier or consultant isn’t the right one to move your project forward, just be honest about it. And move on.

4. Don’t hide behind the ‘unknowns’ as a way not to say yes.

Big projects require a certain amount of due diligence and risk management. And sometimes we let things languish in the ‘too hard’ basket because there are too many unknowns to proceed. So get rid of the unknowns! Block out some time to determine where the ‘gaps’ are and commit yourself (or a staff member) towards finding out any missing information. That way you can get the information you need to make a decision and get that project out of the ‘too hard’ basket once and for all.

Ultimately, projects go in the ‘too hard’ basket because we’re procrastinating. But they STAY in the ‘too hard’ basket when we’re faced with one or many of the above situations.

When your ‘too hard’ basket overflows, it’s a burden. You feel overwhelmed. You can even feel like you’re spiralling out of control.

So don’t accept that these projects are genuinely ‘too hard’. Take an honest look at why they are still in there, take the required action – and get them out of that basket forever.