A somber, misty image of uncertainty

What I think about when starting a new project

Well, there’s a lot of things to think about. I think the uncertainty and newness of a project can really affect your mental game. 

Unless you’re highly specialized in your role – and let’s face it, it seems like more and more we are all being asked to branch out into unfamiliar territory – the projects you take on will probably be highly different from one to the next. Sure there are parts and pieces that are similar, but there’s always something new and unexpected. 

I suppose as one gains experience that becomes easier – at least in theory – but it seems to me that things change so rapidly, that you can’t just lean on your past experiences that much. The only thing to lean on is the old familiar hands of the unknown, resting heavily on your shoulders, telling you that you’re not cut out for this. 

Sometimes it’s really just best to throw caution to the wind and jump in. That’s what I’m trying to do with this site. Now, if I’m being honest – and I will try to be – I must admit it took me two days just thinking about starting to write this article. The actual time it has taken to write – so far, 5, maybe 10 minutes. Looking back I wasted a lot of mental energy just thinking about doing something, when I could have just started doing it. 

This site, or this writing, or whatever it evolves to be is one of those projects. I’m just going to try shit, and write about things on my mind, and try my best not to overthink it. 

Boy that’s encouraging isn’t it? We all feel better now, don’t we?

I’ll also throw this bucket of cold water on the fire that’s starting to burn. Some projects have consequences. Your job may be affected. You may lose a client. Some projects are that big, or that important, to have that kind of pressure. 

With those kinds of projects, it’s important to manage risk. Oof, that’s an adult thing to say, right? Boring! In all seriousness, these kinds of projects require fun things like: planning, estimating effort, defining scope and milestones, and… cough, cough …dates. 

Ugh, deadlines are the worst, amirite?

One of the things that I recently learned about was thinking in the inverse. Essentially, spend time thinking about the worst possible scenario that your project could have. All of the ways it could fail. This is an interesting practice, and sounds down right depressing on paper – but here’s the thing – once you write down each possible failure point, usually the solution to mitigate that risk becomes crystal clear. 

Let’s say you have new project that just absolutely must work reliably when you take it “live.” So, the worst-possible scenario there is that the new thing either doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as expected, when you “go live.” Well, now that we know that is a big failure point, we can pretty easily come up with some ideas to mitigate that risk. Add extra testing, have a roll-back plan, and so on – there’s lots of possibilites. 

Now that you have written down your worst-case scenaios and your strategies for managing those, you should feel a lot better about the situation. Now you know how to deal with the worst thing, if it happens. 

Starting a new project can be fun, but can also be a scary time. These are some of the things I think about (over and over and over) when I am starting a new project. There’s a lot more to do and a lot more to talk about yet, for sure. 

I hope this helps you and brings some comfort. Just close your eyes and get started. 

Brian Hoops
Brian Hoops

Slow thinker.

Articles: 29

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *