CAREER DEVELOPMENT / FEB. 04, 2015
version 6, draft 6

How to Survive a Project When it Hurts Thinking About it

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We’ve all had them – those excruciating tasks or never-ending projects that we complain about over happy hour, agonize over on the weekends, and just generally hate with an unbridled passion. Unless you’re independently wealthy and you have the luxury of giving your clients – or your boss – the bird at any time, you’re going to have to suck it up and get through this project.

As much as it might hurt to even think about doing it, here are some ways to survive.

Eyes on the prize.

It’s not just an expression – it’s something you can actually, physically do. Put a photo of your family, a list of places you’re going and things you’re going to do on your next vacation, or any other visual reminder of what you’re working for, in a place you can see it while you work. While it’s not going to be like some miracle drug that cuts the pain when your boss tells you yet again to redo some minor detail of the project, it can keep things in perspective.

Reward yourself – a lot.

Plenty of people set up a system of reward to celebrate the completion of a project, but in your case, you may need to set up a system of reward for simply getting through each day. Some people delight in retail therapy but hold back because they don’t want to face the shock of the credit card bill that comes at the end of the month. Others look forward to that chilled mocha coffee drink loaded with whipped cream, which they normally deny themselves because it’s also loaded with a million calories. When times are tough though – as they are when you’re deep in the throes of this awful, cringe-worthy project – it may be time to skip the denial thing and to treat yourself on a regular basis. Don’t worry about the calories – just use it as a crutch to get through the day.

Call in a favor.

There’s a reason you should spend time cultivating good relations with your co-workers. When times are tough, they can swoop in and not only have your back, but your head and shoulders too. Hopefully, you’ve already gone the extra mile for your co-workers a time or two before this, because now’s the time when you might need to ask them to return the favor. When you’re dreading every minute of that awful project, ask for someone to lighten your load, even just a little. You might have to return the favor and take part in some other cringe-inducing project for your co-workers later on, but at least none of you will have to go through it alone.

It’s OK to take breaks!

When you find yourself staring at your screen doing nothing for more than a few minutes at a time, it’s time to take a break. You’re not doing yourself any favors sitting there staring into space, so go for a walk, get up and stretch, or head out for that sinful mocha-choca latte thingy. Taking small breaks during the work day can actually increase productivity.

Even with all of these tricks at your disposal, there’s also something to be said for simply sucking it up, being an adult, and realizing that being one involves doing lots of things we don’t like doing. After all, who truly enjoys doing their taxes?

 

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