An Exciting New Year
Hopefully 2007 was a good year for you. If you became a Study Hacks reader during this time, I’d like to think that you’ve been pleased to observe your productivity and effectiveness as a student markedly increase. Of equal importance, however, is the question of excitement. How often during this year were you truly engaged with what you were doing? What percentage of the weeks did you experience a thrill about your various endeavors?
In this post I offer a simple piece of advice that will work to ensure that 2008 is an exciting year. This strategy is one of the most popular from my first book, How to Win at College, and I’m excited to share it here.
The Grand Project
To paraphrase How to Win: A Grand Project is any project that when explained to someone for the first time is likely to elicit a response of “wow!'”
Examples of Grand Projects:
- Writing a screenplay
- Starting a company
- Starting a new campus organization
- Building a money-making blog
- Filming a movie
- Writing a book
The Grand Project Effect
When you work seriously on a Grand Project, it changes the way you view your world. It injects a dose of excitement into your daily routine. The thought of that screenplay being bought or your new organization growing to prominence is a powerful daydream. It floods you with happy chemicals. It focuses you through the small ups and downs that litter the standard student grind. It gives you higher purpose. And, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.
Laddering to Success
The key to deriving the full Grand Project effect is to take it seriously. At first, the project might seem overwhelming — too difficult, too large. So you need a plan. Here’s one that works well:
- Seek out those who have gone before you. Try to track down 2 – 5 people who have done something similar in the past. If possible, find a student or recent alumni from your college, as they are easier to approach. E-mail them to setup a time to chat. Ask them to spell out what worked and what didn’t in their quest to achieve a similar goal. This information is vital. If you start a Grand Project blind, your chances are high of spinning your wheels for a while before simply giving up.
- Identify your First Step. Based on the information from your conversations, decide on the first step on the ladder toward completion that you can reasonably complete within roughly a 30 day timeline. Come up with a habit-based system for accomplishing this step. For example, identify a block of time every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, during which you head to the local coffee shop to work on accomplishing the step.
- Complete Than Repeat. Follow your habit-based plan until the first step is complete. Next, take a moment to survey the scene. Where are you now? What is the closest next step that will move you the farthest towards completion? Once you’ve identified this step, repeat (2) — develop a plan and execute.
- Advanced Tip: Run Multiple Ladders. If you’re really serious about completing the project fast, head for more than one next step at a time. Some steps will fizzle. By running multiple steps concurrently, you increase the chances that you’ll always be making some forward progress.
The Grand Project Challenge
This is the perfect time to introduce a Grand Project into your student life. Before returning to the chaos of the next semester, identify your project, and start step (1) from above. Try to finish your conversations and establish your first habit-based system before the workload really picks up. Start off the New Year with your sights set high and you’ll enjoy the way 2008 unfolds.
If you get a chance, shoot me an e-mail or add a comment to this post about what Grand Project you’re interested in pursuing.