How to slay a scope creep

“The things you do always grow bigger and bigger”. My partner wasn’t making me a compliment, he was providing unwanted but much needed feedback. “You suffer from scope creep”. Of course the first thing I did was deny it – that way I had brain space available to check if he was right (or so I tell myself).

I wonder what dressing up as a scope creep for Halloween would look like... I know now what it looks like in my real life: I start something, I have a vague idea of what Iwant to accomplish, new ideas come up (new insights, new possibilities, extra opportunities) and before I know it what started as something manageable ends up being too big to finish. Or takes way too much time, or way too much energy.

My partner was right. I do suffer from scope creep. I blame my creative brain. I like to develop things on the fly. I like to improvise, be in the moment. My brain works very associative, so one idea will lead to another. All of that is very nice, when it helps me move forward, create new things, go on adventures. But it’s a disaster when it comes to things like decluttering and organising. This is how that typically goes:

‘Ah, here’s something that doesn’t belong anywhere yet. Let’s find a place for it’. *Opens closet, and sees things that don’t belong there*. ‘I’ll remove these things first, to make some space’. *Puts something in a drawer, realises the drawer is a mess, takes something from the drawer that can be thrown into the recycling bin.*Oops, I had promised to empty the recycling bin, let’s do that today’. *Opens another closet to put one of the things from scene one away, and realises this closet holds children’s clothing that don’t fit anymore and should be dealt with.*

Etc. I’m not going to bore you with the rest of that story. My point is: decluttering and organising are like a wildfire in my head. I start off with one thing I want to deal with, and I end up with a picture of EVERYTHING that’s wrong in my house. Which is quite a lot, since I’m not very organised… No wonder I tend to procrastinate on decluttering – I know it makes me feel bad (I’ve described some of those self critical thoughts in yesterdays’ post.)

When I started thinking about my November project, I realised scope creep had entered my mind before I even started. My promise to my partner was that we would get our taxes done, and I would find the information we needed. My scopecreepy brain had automatically added ‘yay, that’s a great opportunity to finally unpack those boxes from moving your office back to your house, create space for your stuff in your cupboards, and sort out those cupboards because there is no space yet.’ Yes, that’s a really long sentence. Gotta love that brain!

Moreover, when I took the time to do a little thinking, I realised I had something extra in mind that was great as a starting point, but really dangerous as a (stealthy) requirement: I would do all this in such a way, that I could apply all my learnings from working with Lisa from less stuff, from being coached on my personal development, etc. Etc! Basically ALL learnings that I could possibly fit in – and I had thought all of that without actually realising I was adding it to my plan.

I tell you, scope creep is creepy. It makes it impossible to reach your goals, and sets you up for failure (with so many bars it’s impossible to reach all of them!). So I realised I needed to do some thinking. How to avoid my usual pitfalls, and make this work?

Slaying methods step one

When in danger of scope creep, start with creating a scope instead of just doing

  • define a concrete result to deliver on a specific date.
  • define what goal that result should bring in the future (so after delivery).
  • define boundaries: when to quit the approach because it’s not working

In my case (insights added in italics):

  • Planned result: On 30th November 2017, everything that’s needed to do our taxes is handed over to my accountant (I’m self employed as a ‘small business’, hence the accountant).
  • Goal:  our taxes over 2016 are done before the end of the year Realisation: I need to check with my accountant if he has enough time available to do that in December, if not, I need to redesign my planned result or change my goal!
  • Boundaries: When my fear of drowning in the project becomes reality. I can ‘measure’ that by me feeling bad about myself. Bad moments are okay, when I keep feeling bad that’s not okay, then it’s time to change my approach (for example ask for help).

The thought process around result, goal and boundaries turned out to be very helpful.

Yesterday I did too much, and the aftermath lasted all day. Or even longer. When I got out of bed I found myself thinking ‘When is the best part of the day to get exhausted today?’. Luckily I heard myself thinking, and noticed that’s not a reasonable idea. I realised slaying method #1 is just a start, and I need more ways to control this process.

To be continued…

One of the things I like about #NaBloPoMo is to pay things forward and discover new blogs. It was my online friend David Ellis who made me aware of the existance of this month. David is a beautiful person and a wonderful poet, and I fully recommend his blog TooFullTooWrite. I love his work. During NaBloPoMo he publishes a new poem every day, both in written form and (bravely, I shudder at the thought of doing that) performed on Facebook live. He also shares a lovely blog roll of fellow participants.

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8 thoughts on “How to slay a scope creep

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  5. TooFullToWrite

    TY for the shoutout, it was such a nice surprise to discover this while reading through your posts, you are very kind to mention me 🙂 Scope creep is an unusual phrase but has now been carefully logged and cataloged in my lexicon with aplomb 😉

    I think you are right about the firm deadlines technique, this is why I am carefully evaluating everything going on this month (because of the daily deadlines) and if I am short on time then things with loose or non-existent deadlines are pushed aside, while I deal with writing and performing poetry all of this month.

    As much as I hate deadlines, I often advocate that if everything is urgent then you may as well just start chipping away anywhere you like, whereas if you have a way of determining deadlines for things or what is “most urgent”, then this should get priority first. If this creates anxiety with other things that have not been done yet then they have to be re-evaluated, bumped up higher on the list and also the notion must be considered that if they have not been done for months then they can still afford to wait for a few more days while I deal with the more urgent stuff. This has reduced a lot of anxiety in my life and helps to create much needed focus to get projects done 🙂

    Very much looking forward to how your endeavours pan out and appreciating your progress techniques 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Day Four – NanoPoblano – Poem/Poetry – “Echoes of Forgotten Dreams” by David Ellis | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  7. Pingback: I took care of my inner child today | Stop procrastinating now!

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