How To Keep Your Projects Off The Pile Of Doom

Have you ever started a new project and seen it fail within weeks (or days)? I know I have, many times. It’s a common story. After the initial hump of energy and excitement, reality sets in and it suddenly becomes clear that this new thing is destined to end up discarded on the pile of projects that didn’t make it.

Pile of doom

This post is all about the best thing I’ve found to make sure that the projects you start avoid the pile of doom.


Always Start With Why.

More often than not, when I get a new idea or am excited to give something a go, I just jump in. I throw my energy at it until it runs out. Only then do I stop and consider (which is usually not a concious process for me) whether I want to carry on. When the answer is anything other than a resounding YES, the project is dead and that is that.

It would save a load of frustration if I could work out whether a project was destined for the pile before setting out. Before starting anything, how about asking: Do I really want to invest myself in this?

That’s certainly not a question I spend any sort of time on before I kick off my next big thing. Do you?

Do you really want to invest yourself in your latest project you have planned?

If you can’t definitively say yes to that, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper, or forget the idea altogether.

After answering that first question, especially if the answer is “Yes”, it’s time to ask the most important question of all:


Why do you want to invest yourself in this project?

Not why do you think you should invest, or why do other people do it. Why do you want to invest yourself here.

Your answers to the “why?” question (and I really hope you can find more than a few) will be the things that motivate you when the initial hump of excitement is gone. Your answers to “why” are very likely to remain constant over the longer term.

Let’s Do It.

If you rest with that question for a little while (20 minutes might be a good starting point), you’ll come up with a bunch of whys that come from the very core of you. It’s those whys – the ones that hint at how you’re wired – that are the real keepers. It’s those that will be the things that carry you through when times get tough.
After you’ve spent some time on your whys, take a little look at the list. How does your list make you feel? That will tell you whether the project is a keeper or it’s destined for the pile. How strongly do you feel about your whys?
If you’re struggling with this, that’s ok. As with most things, this gets easier with practice. If you’re finding it difficult to work out what your whys are, ask yourself whether you think this project just doesn’t have many compelling whys for you, or whether you need to spend a bit more time resting with the question. If you’re totally honest with yourself, you probably know which of those is more true.
When you’re doing this, and asking yourself “why?”, I’d really recommend writing your answers down. Something changes when you do.
Whether in Evernote, a Google doc or on an old school piece of paper. Write them down somewhere.
Seriously, write them down.
As well as bringing your whys to life, writing them down gives you a way to refer back to them. A couple of days, weeks or months into a project (even one you’ve started because you had powerful whys), they can sometimes be hard to remember.
Give it a go next time you’re about to start something new.

Let me know how you get on.

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