The following article is a sample issue of my This Is How I Do It newsletter, a weekly email where I break down exactly how I grow my audience and business.
I’ve got way more things I want to do than I have time to do them.
This is true for most creators and creative professionals, which is why it’s crucial to develop a way to assess which projects to pursue.
Taking on too much has been an issue I’ve struggled with in the past, but I’ve gotten much better at figuring out what to spend my time on in the past couple years.
Following is the process I use to help me make those decisions…
I Have To Be Excited About The Work, Not Just The Opportunity
This seems like an obvious concept, but it’s actually quite challenging.
I see opportunities everywhere and constantly have ideas for things that could grow my audience or business if I pursued them.
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should.
And just because you see an opportunity, doesn’t mean you need to pursue it.
That’s why the first factor I take into account when considering a project is to be honest with myself about whether I’m excited to do the work or just excited by the potential results.
If the work itself doesn’t energize me, I won’t take on the project because while I may be able to do something good with it, it will never turn out great unless I’m truly excited about it.
This filter also helps make it easier to stick with the projects I eventually do pursue.
I Assume Success
When people choose what to pursue, their decision is often based on whichever option they think is least likely to fail.
I do the opposite.
I assume I’ll succeed (one way or another) and then consider which successful project I’d be more likely to enjoy or find more beneficial.
When you use this filter you’ll be surprised how differently you may assess various projects and it gives you a way to make decisions that isn’t rooted in a fear of failure, but rather guided by best case scenarios.
Of course this exercise doesn’t necessarily ensure I’ll ultimately succeed with my new project which is why…
I Consider What Failure Will Cost Me
Once I identify the project I’d most enjoy if successful, I then look at the opposite side of the coin.
But again, I approach this analysis with a twist.
Rather than assess my likelihood of failure, I look at it through a lens of what a failure of that project will cost me.
I estimate how much time, money, resources, and energy a failed project would cost me, but also take into account what I might get out of it even in failure.
For example, I’m considering launching another newsletter soon.
(Yes, I might be addicted to newsletters.)
I’ve got a great idea for one I believe will appeal to a large audience and the confidence it would be something I’d like to create and others would find valuable to consume.
I have to consider what it will cost me if it fails.
It will take me several hours a week to publish, there will be time and money involved in setting it up, and there’s no guarantee it will catch on with anyone or lead to a dollar of revenue.
Plus, it will take time for it to work (or fail), so I’ll need to commit to it for several months at least before I’ll be able to determine if it’s working or not.
Those potential costs are significant and it’s important for me to consider them before taking on the project.
But if I can make peace with the potential cost of failure going into the project and be OK with it, then it removes all the concern once I’m working on it about, “What happens if I fail?”
I already know what will happen…and I’m fine with it.
I wouldn’t be happy about it of course, but I’d be fine with it because I went into it knowing I was taking a calculated risk.
Plus, I’ve got one more secret when it comes to assessing the failure of potential projects…
I Take On Projects That Will Succeed Even If They Fail
I try to only take on projects that will succeed in some way even if they fail.
What I mean by that is I look for projects — or ways to frame projects — that ensure even if they tank I’ll still get value out of them.
In the example of the new newsletter I may launch, I know even if no one ever subscribes to it, I’ll still learn a TON about the topic by writing it every week for several months.
That means in the worst case scenario, I’ll have invested some time and effort into learning something which is valuable even if the newsletter itself fails.
When you go into a project being OK with what you might lose in a total failure and knowing you’ll get value out of it regardless, it makes it easier to pursue and takes a lot of pressure off the project.
If Something Comes On, Something Else Goes Off
The final factor in my decision about what projects to pursue is probably the most important one.
And it’s been the hardest one for me to incorporate over the years — although I’ve gotten WAY better at doing so.
The unfortunate truth is every creator’s time is limited and you can’t just add more and more projects to your plate.
Best case scenario, you’ll burn out.
Worst case scenario, none of your projects will work because you’re spread too thin.
To avoid those fates I now remove something (or multiple things) I’m working on every time I decide to take on a new project.
This isn’t easy to do, but it must be done.
That means if I decide to pursue my new newsletter project, I’m going to have to find some other things to remove or cut back on in order to free up the time and energy needed for the new project.
I’m in this phase right now and have been brainstorming what I may remove in order to make room for the new project.
It may mean publishing fewer blog posts or taking on fewer consulting clients for example.
What’s great about this “something on, something off” policy is it forces you to check in on how strong your interest is in the new project.
If I want to launch a new newsletter, I now have to want to do so badly enough that I’m willing to cut back on other things I currently do that are valuable (personally and financially) in order to invest in the new thing.
It also forces me to justify how the new project has the potential to create enough value to replace and/or exceed the value of whatever I’ll need to remove to pursue it.
For example, here are a couple questions I’m currently asking myself:
• Will this new newsletter serve my audience better and provide more value than some of my blog posts currently do?
• Will this new newsletter ultimately have the ability to generate more and/or easier revenue than some of my client work currently does?
The truth is, I don’t know the answers to these questions yet and that’s why I haven’t launched the newsletter yet.
But, I’m pretty sure the answers are going to be yes and ultimately I’ll launch the thing.
I first had the idea for it a month ago and it’s still on my mind and only gets stronger as I run it through this decision framework.
Years ago, I didn’t do this.
I’d have an idea, launched a new project the day later, and a month into it be scrambling to find the time to work on it or wondering why my other projects were suffering.
This decision framework has been a game changer for me when it comes to deciding what to work on and I recommend you give it a shot as well the next time you get excited to take on something new.
The above article is a sample issue of my This Is How I Do It newsletter, a weekly email where I break down exactly how I grow my audience and business.