There is often quite a gap between how we run our personal life and how we run our professional life. I am about streamlining, so this series will focus on things we can use in our professional life AS WELL AS our personal life.
Have you ever felt paralyzed because you can’t see the next step? Or felt such fear to move anywhere because of overwhelm?
There is a concept in Project Management that easily applies to these situations. It is called progressive elaboration.
The idea is that you cannot be expected to know every single detail before beginning a project. If you waited until you did know everything, chances are very good that you would never begin, and most likely the opportunity you were trying to seize would have passed because you waited too long to do anything.
Progressive elaboration is the notion that you begin planning the project knowing that you will integrate things you learn about the project as you go. Let me repeat the important part there – as you go! So you get into action, and then take future information and input that into what you are doing.
Here is an example:
If you are driving a car at night without headlights, chances are good you won’t drive. Why, because you cannot see what is before you. Is there a curve, a deer, another car? You have no idea so you wait until daylight to be able to have better visibility as you drive.
Now, imagine you are driving a car at night, but now you have switched on the headlights. You feel more comfortable because you can now see before you. Can you see everything between you and your destination? No, but you can see far enough ahead to get moving. Then as you drive further your headlights shine farther down the road and you can continue. As you discover more about the road ahead you integrate that information as you drive along. This is progressive elaboration.
Progressive elaboration can help in achieving personal goals as well. It will enable you to get going, and then integrate future detail. You don’t have to see every step between you and your goals. You just have to see a little bit ahead of you.
So when you feel so overwhelmed that you are stopped in your tracks, think of progressive elaboration. Here are some tips to get you going:
- Do not only focus on the end destination. When you feel overwhelm creeping in look only a few hundred feet down the path (as the headlights allow you to see a few hundred feet down the road at night). Know that as you see more, you will know how to move.
- Remember that any action, no matter how small is better than no action. So if you can only see the path two feet in front of you – move there. More will become clear once you get to that new place.
Progressive elaboration empowers teams to begin work on a project. Let the concept of progressive elaboration empower you to begin work on a goal!