How to Keep Your Enthusiasm for a Project When You Hit the Slump
The idea fills us with intense excitement. We imagine a world where we've successfully pulled off our endeavor, and the world is eager for our contribution. Our energy is in it's peak state.
The initial excitement fuels us to begin our life-altering project. We pull together our ideas, resources, and organize our thoughts into a frenzied whirlwind of work, but it gets harder as we go along. Slowly, we lose focus. We have to hit "Pause" on our work so life can continue whether that's spending time with family, going out with friends, eating, or sleeping.
Eventually it gets harder and harder to come back to our work, but we do come back, fire up the project once more and grind down again on the "To-Do list. Although, sometimes we wonder if the effort is worth the outcome. By now the glitter has faded under the pressure of completing our assignment. The once-golden future has turned steely under the gaze of reality.
What do we do when we don't want to work? When the project no longer seems relevant, urgent, or meaningful?
We plug along as slow as a dead vehicle moving uphill, or we drop it entirely, brush our hands of the idea, and move on.
But your idea was fantastic, and you want to keep going. You just don't know why, how, or when it'll be finished.
Those are exactly the questions we need to ask ourselves before we continue any project that has suffered in the pit of "The Slumps."
First, outline what you want to accomplish with this idea.
What does this project mean to you?
Why did it feel so important in the beginning?
What is the point of it?
How does it help other people?
Why does it matter?
Knowing the "Why's" and "How's" behind your project motivate you to finish, because you know the work matters and that it will affect other people positively. If there is a clear need for your product/idea/book, it should absolutely be something you finish. This is how you know if your idea is Meaningful.
If you need help deciphering whether your idea is good for your audience, ask them. You'll be surprised at what they respond with. Plus, it's always a good idea to get feedback before expending all your time and energy into a product or project that ultimately tanks. This is how you know if your idea is Relevant.
Urgency for a project comes from our need to finish it, and our audience’s needs to implement it. You’ll know if it’s urgent based on what questions you get asked by your people, or the comments they leave.
O.K. so we've established that our work is important, but it's still hard to find the motivation to continue.
Why is this?
It could be a variance of many reasons that boil down to: We don't have the time, we don't want to put in the effort, or we don't believe in our project/selves.
We make time for the things that are most important to us. We wake up early to write a little extra, or stay up a little later. We postpone work to read bedtime stories or play catch.
If you don't have the time, you need to be honest with yourself about what things are most important to you. Ranking your activities will help you to discover what you can cut out in order to make the time.
We put in the effort for those things that really matter. If losing weight is something we're dedicated to do, we'll forgo the extra helpings or dessert, or we'll try harder at the gym. If getting to see a loved one is important, we'll make the drive.
Generally, we tend to expend and reserve energy based on what tasks we deem worthy of our efforts. For instance, we pay less attention to conversations that are predictable, boring, or uninteresting.
Become aware of your daily activities; where you expend energy and where you reserve it. Maybe you're spending too much energy on something that isn't that important. Alternatively, you might need to spend a little more energy on certain tasks. Controlling the flow of your energy and efforts will help your productivity on projects.
Ultimately, what we're stuck with is: it's not that important to us, if we aren't making the time and effort. In which case, we should let it go, or begin to act accordingly.
Now to the other, more serious case of we don't believe in our project or ourselves. You might not believe in your project if it's not a very good idea, and if you're instincts are telling you to drop it, you probably should.
But if it is a good idea and you've validated it with your audience, you should believe in it. It deserves your attention and your full support.
Lastly, you should believe in yourself. I can't stress enough the importance of this concept as it pertains to finishing a project. Believe in your work. Believe that your unique experiences will shape your project for the better. And if you feel inadequate, you can always learn what you don't know. In fact, continuous learning makes us better.
Your enthusiasm may have sprung from an outside source in the beginning, but inside is where it must grow in order to finish. You have to feel with absolute certainty that your project will be worth it.
Ideas tend to come to us when we're actively seeking to enlighten ourselves or those around us. In a sense, they deem us as worthy vessels. We become worthy when we pursue activities that expand our horizons.
Just in case you need help believing in yourself, I have several great articles to guide you on coping with Doubt Ninjas, and Why You Should Learn to Love Yourself and Seven Steps to Healthy Self Love.