We have all experienced that feeling of dread at work when a hard deadline is approaching for that big project. It is easy to get lost in the big picture or stuck in the weeds of small tasks that make your deadline or goal seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The road that you take to reach that hard deadline doesn’t have to be a sprint. Instead, look at your project as a marathon – that way you can celebrate small milestones and stay motivated to hit your targets.

Celebrating small wins

When managing a project, you may run into roadblocks, experience a setback or feel trapped. You might even feel that your project’s progress has stalled. If you feel like you have exhausted all options, don’t give up hope.

It is important to remember that it is not about the destination but the journey, and your ongoing accomplishments will help you to stay positive and build momentum. Remind yourself that a small win can be something as simple as completing a productive weekly meeting or identifying a new business prospect. Acknowledging these small tasks will keep you moving forward with a strong cadence.

Instil confidence

If you are leading a team, instil internal confidence by building a sense of ownership, trust and empowerment. Be transparent and communicate often to the rest of your team members. Your team members can only provide support when they are aware of how the project is progressing.

Host update meetings, send out a regular memo or have a shared calendar which highlights the progress of your project. Keep communication open so team members can discuss challenges or frustrations. Creating and assigning roles to each of your team member is another way to create a sense of cohesion. Communicate everyone’s roles clearly, so they know what part they play and feel a sense of ownership.

Setting clear goals

When planning your project, it is important to set benchmarks. The Progress Principle is a multi-year research project that Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer conducted to discover what makes people happy, motivated, creative and productive at work. According to this project, they found that even when progress happens in small steps, a person’s sense of steady forward movement toward an important goal can make all the difference between a great day and a terrible one. That’s why setting clear and achievable goals that you or your team members can refer to at every stage of the project is extremely important.  

Meaningful work

The Progress Principle also highlights that the best way to bring about satisfaction at work is to infuse meaning in the work you do. The study found that people feel more intrinsically motivated when they made real progress in work that mattered to them, making them particularly eager to take on problems or find creative solutions.

Meaningful work, fortunately, does not have to involve high level projects like alleviating poverty or finding a cure to cancer. Work with less profound importance can matter if it contributes value to something or someone important to you. Therefore, find ways to infuse your job or your employees jobs’ with meaning. This allows you and your team to understand how the work contributes to the overall project, and strive forward.

Tracking progress

Keeping a journal is probably one of the best strategies for learning about improving your performance over time. Journaling at the end of every work day will help you track progress, discover creative insights and reveal patterns in behaviour that help you find progress. Find one good thing to report, even if you had a bad day – and you might just be on your way to tackling that major project more productively and positively.