The Project You Want to Do vs. the Project That Needs Doing

Sometimes when you’re evaluating your project ideas for which one you’ll do next, something unexpected can happen.

You think that Project A is the “right” one.

Maybe you even start working on the project. But then you keep bumping up against obstacles.

And you begin to suspect that the easiest way to remove the obstacles is to work on Project B.

Cue Resistance!

But but but!

The problem is that Project B isn’t what you wanted to work on.

Imagine this scenario:

Project A involves tackling something big and important that will bring you accolades and ease to the people you work with once it’s done. Like creating or improving a system that your entire team will use.

Project B, on the other hand, is something like organizing your office and sorting through the waist-high piles of papers you haven’t had time to deal with for months.

Why we fight against working on Project B instead of Project A

Okay, even besides the fact that Project A might be a lot more appealing than Project B, there can be other stuff that gets in our way.

Maybe we think that Project B doesn’t “count.” I mean, especially if you’re a creative person, it feels good to wind up with a finished product you can say ta-daaa about. So Project B can feel like it’s not even a project…and certainly not as meaningful.

It’s easy to end up thinking that the only valid way to spend our time is to work solely on the big, important projects.

Time for a reframe

Something I have to remind myself of at least once a day: We are each responsible for creating a work-life that fulfills us and makes our hearts sing.

Yes, it can feel as though Project B is forcing itself on you and taking over your brainspace, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Next time you’re struggling with choosing to work on Project B (the one that needs to happen) instead of your Project A (the one you thought was next), try the following:

Remember that anything can be a project

Even if you’re working on something as mundane as just sorting through junk-mail, by virtue of the fact that you’ll eventually reach the end of the pile, that’s a project.

And it’s legitimate.

Look for ways to infuse your project with meaning and pleasure

How do you infuse a project with meaning? One way is to create a system to make the process more efficient in the future. For example, instead of just sorting through your papers, look for ways to make it easier to stay organized going forward.

I imagine you already have a pretty good idea of what I mean by infusing the project with pleasure, but some go-to ways for me are to play music, brew yummy tea, and plan a reward at the end.

Imagine how great it will feel to finish Project B

Whenever I’ve got one of those Project Bs I’ve been avoiding – especially if there’s some form of organizing involved – I worry I’m going to find something important that I should have dealt with long ago.

If I can get to the point of being willing to face it, I always feel a beautiful sense of lightness once I’m done. (Okay, okay, I usually beat myself up for a few minutes for not dealing with the project sooner, but once the initial sting subsides, I’m glad I took care of it.)

Remind yourself why you’re working on Project B instead of A

You’re working on Project B now so that it’s easier to work on Project A later. And who knows? Maybe Project B will help make Project C easier, too.

When the project you don’t want to do starts crowding your thoughts and creating anxiety for you, ignoring it won’t work.

Either say no to the project or get clear on why you’re going to do it. And then do it.

And if you’re having trouble getting clear, get some support.

We’re so quick to dismiss our Project Bs as poor uses of our time, but anything that helps to create spaciousness and peace in our work is worthwhile.

How about you?

Do you have a Project B that’s getting in the way of your Project A?

What’s one way you’ll infuse your Project B with meaning so that it feels like it’s a part of your work, and not a postponement of it?

2 thoughts on “The Project You Want to Do vs. the Project That Needs Doing

  1. Sarah O

    This is so affirming! It must be why I spent 6 hours dealing with just such a project B last Sunday. I kept thinking I didn’t have ‘time’ to work on getting my bookkeeping and finances in order, because then I wouldn’t be moving forward on the Real Project. Trouble was, I wasn’t moving forward on Project A anyway. That big old bugaboo was hanging over my head, staring me in the face every time I shifted in my chair.

    You’ve just given me permission to go ahead and get PRoject B (boring finances, setting up system so they don’t get out of control). I’m realizing that Project A will get a burst of creative energy once this is taken care of. Thanks!!

    1. Victoria Post author

      Yay, Sarah! That’s so great to hear! Those Project Bs are a pain, but it sure feels good once they’re finished! (Maybe “B” should stand for how much we bitch about them rather than doing them!)

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