When I began working on projects, I always felt like the timeline for a project was determined by the different activities that have to take place during the project, I thought planning for the project will take x amount of time, developing the project will take x amount of time, and launching will take x amount of time, then I’ll just make the sum of all those durations and that will be the estimate of how long that project was going to take me. It’s with this philosophy I worked on projects and I came to realize that this wasn’t very efficient, with this open strategy I let myself be lazy, I couldn’t keep to deadlines and I basically didn’t have any SMART objectives, I often ended up working on projects for a very long time to the point I got bored with the project and moved on to another.
From there I moved on to a more comprehensive strategy which was to give myself 1 year for every project, I decided that depending on the size of the project, I was going to be working on it either for 3 months, 6 months or any timeline which fell into the scope of a year, I chose this specific timeframe just because I thought to myself that 2 years was too long and anything beyond that, even 1 year was very long to me, but I felt like it was sufficient time to evaluate the progress of the project. A couple of projects I launched were able to go to completion during the period of time but past this period they eventually failed, maybe because I didn’t do the research properly or I didn’t develop them adequately or still maybe the launch wasn’t done correctly. Since I was desperately trying to crunch everything down into a year, that meant that I had to rush certain activities while other activities had way too much time, the research phase may have required a lot more time than I had planned or the development phase took way more resources.
I wasn’t also taking into consideration external factors such as trends or even launch periods, depending on which sector of activity you are in, there are periods which are ideal for launch and others which aren’t so much. I had just given a fixed deadline to every activity and once that time reach I had to move on to something else in order to catch up with the deadlines I had set for myself.
I realized that in order to launch a full project which can last even for the next decade, it needs a lot of preparation, development and dedication before it can even been deployed, and 1 year isn’t enough to do that, 2 years not so much and even 3 years isn’t going to cut it. The ideal amount of time (depending on your sector) is 5 years, and this also varies from projects. In order for a project to be longstanding, you need to give it enough time for it to grow and this 5-year period of time doesn’t mean you are going to be developing the project for 5 years, but this is just the incubation phase, this is the time estimate you give the project to get off the ground. I wasn’t thinking like this for most of my projects, I was instantly expecting success at the launch of every project, but if you want your project to stand the test of time, 5 years is an appropriate amount of time you can give yourself to evaluate your sustainability.
Keeping your money
One thing you have to remove from your mind is that you can carry out a project without investment, that’s a misconception, even if your project doesn’t require any money to be developed (like a piece of software), you will still require money for some other things. You want to ensure that before you launch a project, you have some money spared aside to serve multiple different purposes. Before launching any project you must evaluate the cost and that can never be $0, so ensure to keep enough money for things like marketing, sales, advertising, legal issues etc You want to ensure that you have at least some money to take care of the unforeseen costs which might impact your project, this all depends on the project. In order for you to have this money, you can save it yourself through your jobs, find investors or even crowdfunding. Keep in mind that you can raise that money before or even during that 5 years period, this period starts from the moment you have decided to pursue that project.
Learning all what it takes
You want to ensure that for the first 2 years you are spending a lot of your time learning all what it takes to take that project to completion, examine the markets thoroughly, benchmark the competition aggressively and make sure you have every single bit of information you require. Some people may go as far as working for the competition to get some insights on how the business works and their strategies. During these first 2 years, you want to make sure that you collect as much information as you possibly can in order to guarantee the success of your project. This is one of the critical parts of any project because without the adequate amount of information, your project is doomed.
Without the relevant information, you are not going to see the problems which are coming for you and won’t be able to deal with the already known issues, not only will you have to handle new issues but even the old issues are going to be a problem for you since you didn’t take time to learn from others. You want to make sure to have all the information about the potential difficulties you are going to face in that market so that you don’t spend your time on issues that the competition has already resolved, that will just slow you down. My recommendation will be for you to go work for the competition, so you have direct access to all this information and insights.
Preparing and Demoing your plan
For the 3rd and 4th year what you want to do is start working and testing the demo of your plan, deploy the beta version and start receiving feedback from users. I’m not just talking about software projects, even a restaurant, you might want to start small before scaling upwards later on. Give yourself enough time to get feedback from users and really try out what works and what doesn’t, keep in mind that this is not the final version of your product, its the demo, so it has to be able to evolve dynamically. Don’t get stuck on one idea you try to force on people, but rather put out a rough sketch which you can modify accordingly. If you want to launch a new drink for example, you might want to start off by selling it to the people close to you or at the corner of a street and appreciate how well it is received before moving onto renting out space and setting up everything. In the same way, if you have a software application, before paying for hosting and building a whole website for it, set up the demo version of the product which you can deploy to all the free hosting services out there and get feedback from your friends and even just random people on social media.
Bringing everything together
Going into the 5th year, it’s now time to deploy the full version of your project, this really depends on the feedback you’ve received so far. At this point you should already be making some money just from the demo of your product, if you aren’t earning anything from the demo version, then you probably won’t earn anything from the full version itself. At this point its time for you to find investors and raise all the funds you need into order to deploy the full version, you can do this with the data you would have collected during the demo phase. Keep in mind that you must not do everything alone, you can always recruit people for your research, development and even deployment depending on the resources you have. Sure you could spend the next years doing this all by yourself, but it will take you much less time if you just had some additional people, they don’t even need to share your vision, as long as they do their part of the work. By trying to do everything yourself or for free, you are just spending much more of your time and resources, which could be allocated to other activities or even other projects.
This is not to say that you can’t carry out your projects is less amounts of time or that there are not different ways of doing projects, there are definitely, this is just one way which gives you enough time to guarantee your success. Sure you can finish a project in a couple of months but will that stand the test of time and the ever evolving technology. The average startup crashes just after 2 years, and your project might just be a passing desire or done out of desperation. If you aren’t able to work on a project for the next 5 years, then you wouldn’t be able to do it for the rest of your life, which is the actual time span most of your clients want it for.