Naming projects when you don't control the outcome
April 5, 2022 by Stephen Dolan
Today, I was listening to this episode of the GTD podcast:
Generally, my advice to folks is that they should always name projects according to the positive outcome they want to see. Don’t name your project “Launch marketing site”; instead, name it “Launch a beautiful new marketing site”. The idea behind this is that when you see something so positive and encouraging, your brain will more naturally want to see it to its conclusion.
However, this same approach can break down a bit when you’re not so tightly in control of the outcome you want to see. Take, for example, a project to close a sales deal with Client A.
Who knows if the person you’re selling to might have a bad day or if the thing you’re selling simply isn’t a good fit? Naming a project
Sell Client A our widget can actually
discourage your brain from wanting to tackle it because you’re not in control of whether or not the desired outcome you named can be achieved.
In this episode, David Allen brought this to the forefront and had some excellent guidance. He said:
What can you handle inside of yourself? What kind of resolution can you at least get to that you know that you got that final, and got to mark that off?
This mindset unlocked something for me that I hadn’t considered. Instead of having a project named
Successfully sell Client A our widget, we should call it something we can
Maximize Client A's opportunity to buy our widget. This framing is still positive and quite detailed, and is entirely under our control, regardless of how
the client decides to proceed.