Growing up in Sportsman's Paradise (Shreveport, Louisiana), sports are everything. As a young athlete, I was intimately acquainted with competition: the thrill of a win, the sting of a loss, and the hard work that precedes (and follows) both. I learned that school rivalries are life and death even if you never went to the participating schools. I learned that we don’t care if you’re a bandwagon fan, we just care if you’re a committed one. We don’t care if you’re not going to college to play your sport, we just care that you give it all you have. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
You are probably tempted to roll your eyes at this point. Don’t. You might want to shrug off this sports analogy because maybe winning hasn’t been a part of your history or has seemed unattainable. Maybe you have disqualified yourself from competing in school or in your career because you don’t think you “have it.”
Let me let you in on a secret. A secret for athletes and non-athletes, for success stories, and those who don’t have one success story: hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.
This is a favorite quote of Kevin Durant. THE Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors with an NBA Championship under his belt. THE Kevin Durant who has been named NBA MVP, NBA Scoring Champion, NBA Rookie of the Year and has been selected seven times for the NBA First Team and nine times for the NBA All Star Team. Kevin Durant knows how to get things done and he attributes success to hard work. I agree.
Here are some tips that I have learned in my own career on how to actually get things done. Warning: following these suggestions might lead to you solving “impossible” problems, finishing insurmountable projects, getting a raise, and sitting at tables where you shouldn’t even be in the room. You have been warned.
1. Don’t get overwhelmed when looking at the scope of an entire project, especially when you are personally responsible for many of the key parts.
How? Focus on your tasks. By default, each time you complete a task you are advancing the entire project, so don’’t criticize yourself for getting “small” things checked off the list. You are moving forward.
2. Don’t miss deadlines.
How? When you are involved with a project that has many steps, you will be tempted to push back deadlines when looking at the ultimate deadline. “Well, the event isn’t for 2 months, I don’t have to get these invites done now….” Yes you do. Do not pay attention to ultimate deadlines (dates of events, etc), only your own personal task deadlines (assuming they are accurate). If you don’t, you will be late. And if you are late on items that need review, you are pressuring other team members and possibly jeopardizing the project.
3. Do not wait until the end of your time frame to start because you are not inspired.
How? Start immediately if you have the capacity. The effort of doing anything to get started (even making a list of tasks or a Pinterest board) usually sparks creativity and energy. If you still aren’t inspired, revisit the project every morning (or your sweet spot of energy during the day) until you are.
4. Do not allow yourself to feel stuck because a part of a project is not your strong suit.
How? Ask for help! There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, you are applauded for it. Teams are strong because of the sum of their parts. If you are working alone on something, phone a friend who is knowledgable, or my personal favorite: ASK THE INTERNET. The people of the internet know things. They know things that you can learn and that can be the key to your project.
5. Last but not least: Do not give up.
If there is one thing I could say has been the main factor in my success it is this: I never give up…on a project, on a deadline, on getting better, on streamlining processes, on moving ahead.
How? Giving up is a choice usually fueled by fear. And fear is a liar. Nine times out of ten you want to give up because you are afraid...that you aren’t good enough, capable enough, high energy enough, talented enough. I promise you have more fight in you than you think. You are more capable than you think. You have resources you can tap and smaller tasks you can accomplish that will give you momentum (see #1).
And here is the ultimate secret (in life and in Christianity): if you don’t quit, you win.