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Projects vs. Process


This is the time of year where everyone is focused on planning for the new year.

But before planning for next year, the obvious question is:

How did we do this year?

In other words:

What got done?

What didn’t get done?

And, if something didn’t get done, can we determine ‘why’ so that we plan better next year?

Getting stuff done is remarkably simple.

You need:

  1. A ‘Definition of Done’ - aka. the Goal or Target
  2. A series of steps or tasks to get from where we are now to the ‘Definition of Done.’
  3. The discipline to complete these steps despite adversity, distraction, and competing priorities.

Typically, the ‘Definition of Done’ plus all of the tasks to accomplish it are neatly housed in a container like a Project to keep things organized.

But, once you complete these series of steps for the first time, your next thought should be, will I be doing this again?

If ‘yes’, most likely it’s time to convert the project into a repeating process with the same consistent steps which can be replicated again and again.

An example:

There’s a step-by-step process for an aircraft to go from being turned off at the gate to a successful take off.

No one is expecting a pilot to start from scratch before every takeoff to figure out the exact steps required to go from 0 to 10,000 feet.

It’s far more efficient to develop a successful process and deploy it the same way for every takeoff, every time.


The pilot doesn’t have to waste time reinventing the wheel.

The airport can get planes out on time.

The airline can be sure the pilot is following all of the required steps to reduce costs from accidents or delays.

The passengers can feel safe that no steps have been missed and the chances of an accident are miniscule.

Its a win-win-win-win.

The same can be said with someone struggling to maintain an exercise habit.

It’s usually not a question of knowledge: ie. What exercises should I do? Should I do strength or cardio? Should I stretch?

People hide behind a lack of knowledge when they are not getting results but this is the easy way out and rarely the reason results aren’t achieved.

It’s usually more of a process issue:

How does fitting in exercise work into my morning routine?

How can I set up my workouts to reach my goals and be enjoyable?

How can I reduce the friction to start a workout when I am not feeling 100% motivated?

It’s the same for any aspirational habit we want to pick up: meditation, reading, eating healthy, etc.

If we can find better processes to incorporate these habits into our day-to-day lives, we would achieve the results we are looking for.