How to Get a Stalled Project Moving Again

Do you have a long-term project which you’ve stalled on? Perhaps you’ve got a half-written novel tucked away, or you started a blog that you haven’t updated for weeks or months. Maybe you began a big craft project – a tapestry or rug. Or you planned to redecorate the spare bedroom, but never got further than moving furniture around.

Chances are, you’ve got at least one big project where you’ve not made any progress for a while.

It could even be one where you’ve backslid (like losing weight).

Should It Be Binned?
First of all, you need to decide whether it’s actually worth bothering. Sometimes, you start a project or work towards a particular goal – and in the process, you realize it’s not really that enjoyable.

Maybe you began a novel or a blog or a memoir, but you’ve found you hate writing.

Perhaps you started teaching yourself to play the guitar, only to realize that competence was a lot further away than you thought.

If the thought of resuming your project fills you with dread, it might be time to say “goodbye” to it for good. Take those too-small clothes to a charity store. Give away the craft materials you’ll never use. Put a post on your blog to say there’ll be no further updates. Do whatever it takes to get some closure.

If you do decide to carry on with your project, though, here’s what you need to do:

  • Devote a Chunk of Time
    It’s hard to get up the energy to restart something after a long break. I find that devoting a big chunk of time really helps, because you can make serious forward progress. Starting off with just half an hour or so means you’ll barely get anywhere, and it can seem like a futile effort.

    Devote a whole weekend to writing the next chapter or two of your novel. Spend a day updating a long-neglected website. Schedule a whole afternoon to work on your craft project. You might even go on a weekend or week-long course.

  • Give Yourself a Deadline
    Why did your project stall in the first place? Because you weren’t working on it consistently. The best way to keep up your momentum on a long-term project is to have a firm deadline in mind. You might want to pick a particular occasion – your birthday; next Christmas; the start of the school year.

    Write your deadline on your calendar. This is an instant way to get your mind focused, as it gives you a visual reminder of how much time you’ve got to complete work on the project.

    I like to set deadlines which are ambitious without being unrealistic: it’s good to push yourself a bit, but it’s not good to run yourself into the ground!

  • Set a Regular Schedule – and Stick to It
    Once you’ve got a deadline, you can work back from that to figure out your weekly schedule. On a writing project, you might want to complete a certain number of words, or perhaps a chapter or section, every week. With a work project, you might have specific milestones to hit along the way. For some tasks, it’s easiest simply to decide to work on them for a set number of hours every week – an hour a day is plenty to get almost any project moving fast.

    I find that the key to sticking to a project schedule is to make that project a priority in the day. If you work on your business plan first in the day, it can’t get crowded out by other demands. Alternatively, set aside a particular time slot in your diary – maybe every Sunday afternoon, or a couple of weeknight evenings.

  • Make a Public Commitment
    Finally, a great way to ensure you make consistent progress is to have a public commitment to your project. The accountability helps you stay motivated. There are plenty of ways you could do this, including:
    • Taking a course which involves producing regular work (I’m doing this for my creative writing)
    • Telling your blog readers about your goal
    • Updating your Twitter followers each day with your progress
    • Asking a friend or relative to keep you accountable
    • Having a friendly competition with a colleague

    The important thing is to get someone other than you interested in your project.

Have you got any stalled projects? What are they – and how are you going to get started on them again?

Written on 1/11/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ( or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: Andre Charland


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