How to work on several projects and not lose the plot?

Is it possible to carry out a few projects simultaneously and get results quickly and efficiently? Absolutely! It’s possible to work simultaneously on entirely different projects without the sensation of being overloaded and not in control. And I am not talking about multitasking – the ability to perform more than one task or activity simultaneously, which, if taken to the extreme, can bring errors due to insufficient attention. I am talking about doing two or more projects requiring some planning and effort on top of your everyday responsibilities.

Imagine a situation in which you have to combine work, home logistics and a couple of new projects or initiatives you want to carry out. A case in which you do it all without stress, delays, regrets and feeling exhausted…

It sounds like a fantasy, right?

Except it isn’t.

Working on several projects simultaneously and achieving results within the targets I’ve set is something I have succeeded in at work and home. And now I dedicate my time to helping others achieve that (including my kids).

As you might well guess from my slogan and the title of this article, I am crazy passionate – not just about achieving the changes that matter to us – but about achieving them in the most efficient and stress-free way.

Too often, I see people slogging away, working all the hours they have available to achieve their dreams and not seeing enough (if anything) results. And that makes me sad… and it’s something I want to help fix because it doesn’t have to be that way.

With the right strategies, it is possible to make more than one change and work simultaneously on different projects without stressing. You have to use a parallel way of working (also called incremental) instead of sequential. 

Here I share the exact steps you need to take to do that:

Plan your next 3 to 6 months

Planning sounds scary and imprisoning. But it does not have to be like that. The thing is that we cannot put our lives on hold while we work to change one aspect of it. Focusing on one activity from start to finish, and only then starting another can work for those who have time on their horizon. But who has that? Who has plenty of time to stretch and is not in a hurry?  It all spins around, and we need to learn to manage several things at the same time. So, plan your next 3 to six months on three basis terms:

Outline your primary responsibilities

and how much time they take up in your everyday life. I am referring to things like work, family, community service, hobbies… Your sketch could look something like this:

Then decide how much time you can dedicate to the changes you want to make or the extra activities you want to do? One hour a day? Two hours every second day? Half a day a week? One month a year? Keep in mind three things when you plan: a day has 24h, you need to sleep, and you need to face your responsibilities. Ideally, you can ‘squeeze out’ repetitive timeslots – 1H/day along 2-3 days/week. Because when you work on changing things, you need to dedicate certain continuity to see results.

Write down how many changes or initiatives do you want to carry out

Set up a goal without driving yourself mad. Be realistic and think of the time you just calculated that you could dedicate to these changes.

I will give you a personal example. When I plan changes or things to do in my personal life, I tend to select three areas to work on simultaneously as I have three essential aspects in my life that I am continually improving: family, learning and lifestyle (by it, I mean health, exercise and travel). 

Identify stoppers and how you will deal with them

Think of all the ‘but’s’, ‘don’ts’ and ‘later’s’ you will come across when you start working on your initiatives. All the objections, your’s and others, you will have to overcome and all the financial and time-related issues you might run into.

In my case, my typical distractions are home “emergencies” that happen in any shape and form like logistics or something gets broken or the dog needs to go to the vet… Another distraction is my family, who wish I could dedicate 100% of my time to them and when they see me working on something, find any excuse to need me. And finally, my friends and socialising (which I love) are constantly on my mind :-). So, I have to cope with all these distractions and focus on getting results quickly and efficiently.

I do that as best as I can and within my free time. You will have to figure out your distractions and cope with them. A piece of advice… be kind to everyone but set up limits.

Use an incremental, not sequential approach. 

Here comes the important part! Kick-off as many initiatives as you can simultaneously. 

I know what you are thinking! Boriana, you are crazy! I’m having a hard time keeping up with my everyday life, and you expect me to work on several new projects simultaneously on top of that! How can I do that and not lose it?

Yes, you can do it! You’ve planned some time you can dedicate to these changes. Depending on your time availability and your goal, you can kick off two or more initiatives. In my example, I had to sacrifice one, as I figured out that I won’t have time for it.

The key is to stick to the time you’ve assigned to this. Do not stress yourself by finding more time. But neither ‘steal’ this time for something else nor misuse it. Let’s be clear on one thing – there is no magic wand to wave to make things happen. If you want to DO something in life and achieve MORE than usual, you have to be DISCIPLINED and stick to the timeframe. It is not that difficult; you have to put it as a PRIORITY.

So, how do you do that? What is an incremental approach?

The incremental approach calls for launching several activities in parallel and advancing on all fronts. It is a faster way to work on projects and a faster way to get things done than working sequentially (which means only moving to the next phase or step if you have completed the previous step successfully). If your goal, change or initiative is ambitious and has a significant scope, break it down into smaller tasks and start working.

For example, for somebody like me (not an overly creative person), learning photoshop seems like climbing Everest. I don’t know where to start, and every time I watch one of their tutorials, I feel completely overwhelmed and lost. So, I have to break the challenge into small, more digestible steps. I can do that by defining what exactly I want to learn to do with Photoshop. It could be background removal or red eyes correction. So, I can focus on that, understand it, practice it and then move to the next topic of interest. It could be mastering masking and adjustment layers. And so on…

Simultaneously, as I am learning Photoshop, I will start cycling and redecorating the kid’s playroom. As my children are already teenagers, I will involve them in the process and give them some responsibilities, such as separating the toys for donation, gifts, and recycling. 

As you see from the chart below, I plan to use my free time to do these activities. There is some overlapping, but it is something I can manage and still fulfil my primary responsibilities.

The final result of working with a parallel approach is that you need less time to achieve more: you will get results quickly and efficiently. And that translates into enjoying success and quality time. It also allows you to do many things in life. 

And finally…

Never lose focus or forget your goal.

We live in a world made of distractions. Whether it is our family, a new fashion trend, the latest Netflix movie or somebody’s opinion on social media – distractions are there. I think there is no harm in allowing yourself a break, enjoying whatever makes you happy. But get back on track quickly. Remember your goals, the benefit of achieving them and how easy the next change will be for you. It is possible to work on several projects simultaneously; all you have to do is organise and establish priorities.