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5 things to do before starting your legacy project

‘Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.’ Alan Lakein

Have you decided on your first legacy project yet? If so, or if you’re thinking of setting one up, here are 5 tasks you need to complete before you embark on your legacy project, to make sure you carry it out until the very end. 

 1. Consider whether this project is crucial to your legacy goal.

Before starting the project, consider carefully the following question:

how will this particular legacy project help you towards your legacy goal?

You may realise that it is not crucial to your goal, in which case you might want to reconsider starting it. If, on the other hand, you think it is crucial to your goal, then write down each and every single reason why this is the case. Keep what you wrote in full sight while working on the project. Once the initial excitement dies down, it is important to keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place, so you are not tempted to give up just because things are tough.

2. Ask yourself these hard questions:

Would I still embark on this project if completing it did not lead to success of any kind?

Would I be prepared to carry out this project for the rest of my life, if it came to it?

If this were the only project I could pursue as part of my legacy goal before I die, would I still choose this project?

As with the previous point, consider whether in light of your answers, the project is still worth doing. If you decide it is, write down the answers to each of these questions and keep them in full sight. Once the project starts you will be more focused on the details and occasionally forget of the ‘bigger picture’, so it is important you devote enough attention to it now, to make sure you start this project for all the right reasons. 

3. List your resources. Most legacy projects fail because they run out of resources, e.g. time, money, people etc.

To make sure you avoid this particular problem, you need to make two lists:

– one list with all the resources you currently have at your disposal for this project

– a second list with all that is needed to conclude the project successfully (include at least a 25% contingency on each of the resources).

Now subtract the resources in the second list from the ones in the first list and consider the following questions:

– Is there anything left?

– Are there any ‘negative’ values (i.e. do you need more of some things than you currently have?)?

– If you answered ‘yes’ to the previous question, do you have a way of getting the resources still needed?

Try to put any resources still needed in place before embarking on the project, or at least have a reasonable plan of how you will get hold of these resources along the way.

 4. Anticipate the motivation slump. Okay, I know you’re all excited about your legacy project now. And this excitement will probably keep you going for the first few days, weeks, or even months – your ‘legacy project honeymoon’. You’ll do an insane amount of progress on your project in that time, and feel like things couldn’t be better. But sooner or later, unexpected things will start happening. Obstacles will get in the way, things will take far longer than expected, your energy will run out after all the hyperactivity, people will betray you and start leaving the project or be thrown out, you’ll even run out of your contingency budget despite being nowhere near the end etc. etc. And at that point, you will experience the motivation slump. Days will start running into each other with little to show, they’ll start becoming weeks and maybe even months or years. Some legacy projects may take a whole lifetime, which is why it is important to consider (see the previous point) whether you would be prepared to work on this project for your entire life if it came to it. The good news is that it is much easier to deal with the motivation slump if you know you will encounter it at some point along the way. And even better, if you have already put in place some strategies for dealing with it.

 5. Decide when to quit in advance. If you’ve taken all the previous 4 steps outlined so far, you may not come to the point where you need to seriously consider quitting. However, no matter how much planning you’ve done in step 3, legacy projects are never straightforward, and sometimes you will discover your initial thinking about what resources are needed was so ridiculously optimistic you feel like the biggest idiot on the planet. Or sometimes things happen in your life that you couldn’t have anticipated and that have a hugely negative impact on the project. Whatever the reason, the time for considering at what point you will quit should be before you start putting in resources into the project. Of course, you cannot know in advance whether anything major will happen, so you cannot make your quitting strategy based on that. But you can say to yourself things like ‘If I haven’t reached milestone X, Y, and Z by month 6, then I’ll quit’; or ‘if person ABC leaves the project, I’ll quit’; or ‘if the project costs more than [insert cash amount] by month 6 I will quit’. Even if you think you would never quit regardless of what happens, you do need to decide and write down at what point enough is enough and you will throw in the towel. Whatever you decide on this, keep it in full sight along with your answers to points 1 and 2. You are far less likely to talk yourself into quitting when the motivation slump is at its worst if you decide before the project starts when you are going to quit. 

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