A project plan with a big anarchy symbol on it, Starting New Projects

In this article The Punk Guide to Rapid Prototyping I’ve looked at the benefits of taking a ‘punk’ approach to starting new projects, and it’s a way I love to work. However, it’s not without its risks, so here are some of my do’s and don’ts for making sure you start a new project well but without too much of the faff!

1. Define Your Objectives

– why start your new project, what are you trying to achieve?


  • Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.
  • Communicate the project objectives to your colleagues and the people involved.
  • Involve key people in deciding what your goals will be.


  • Avoid being vague or too broad in explaining what you’re trying to do.

Top tip: ‘The pub test’ for new projects and ideas

Practice being able to explain your project idea in 30 seconds as though you’re telling someone in a busy pub who’s already had a pint or two.

The key is to be clear:

  • Why you’re doing it (what inspired it?)
  • What you’re doing
  • What you’re intending the outcome to be (what will change as a result?)

2. Conduct Preliminary Research


  • Research to see if there’s something similar you can learn from
  • Chat with colleagues to assess the feasibility and potential challenges of the project. There will be things you’ve not thought of.
  • Listen.


  • Spend excessive time on the research stage at the expense of just starting the project.
  • Take the negative vibes too much to heart. Listen, and learn why they’re being said to you, but also hold on to what motivated in wanting to start the new project. Treat their words as cautionary and advisory, but also use them to help motivate you to succeed.

3. Create an outline Plan for starting your new project


  • Outline your major milestones and key deliverables.
  • Allow flexibility in your planning so you can adapt to changes.


  • Over plan to the point of delaying the project start.

Be careful how many people you involve. ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’ as they say. Your vision may well be different to a colleague’s and whilst it’s good to be open to feedback, you also need to stick true to your vision.

  • Don’t stick to a plan without being open to making any adjustments.

4. Digital Tools and Resources


  • Make use of project management tools to aid your organising. I love using Trello (for planning the aspects of the project and delegating tasks) or Todoist for setting timely reminders.
  • Keep digital files and resources well-organised and accessible. Set up shared folders for your colleagues, not on your desktop.


  • Overcomplicate yourself with too many apps. For example, Trello will do everything you need, sending you reminders and letting you plot out your tasks.
  • Don’t get bogged down in those digital rabbit holes. Keep focussed on your overall mission.

5. Prioritise Tasks efficiently


  • Make use of techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix, a simple way to work out tasks that are important, not important, and not urgent.
  • Focus on quick wins that drive the project forward, giving you momentum, enthusiasm, and confidence.


  • Therefore don’t fail to distinguish between urgent and important tasks.
  • Likewise don’t spend too much time on low-priority tasks. But be kind to yourself, recognizing that sometimes you choose low-priority tasks because you need a rest. Recognise this and check that you’re doing it in balance.

6. Break Down the Project into Smaller Tasks


  • Break the project down into manageable and actionable steps.
  • Set clear deadlines for each task. (Use Trello to automate your reminders for this).


  • Let large, undefined, or unquantifiable tasks overwhelm you. For example, you may think your idea is so great you want to licence it across the UK. I’d say start with getting it right where you are first. Take it step by step.

7. Use Time Blocking and Pomodoro Technique


  • Use your calendar to set specific blocks of time for focused work.
  • The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to maintain productivity and promote well-being.


  • Allow interruptions during your focused work periods. If you need space, don’t come into the office, stay home, go to a cafe or the library.
  • Neglect breaks and risk burnout. Look after yourself.

8. Identify what you’ll need


  • Work out what resources you need to get going. You may need funding or can you just start?


  • Don’t forget to make the most of community resources – cafes are cheap places for group meetings.
  • Get hung-up on thinking you could change the world if only you had the money. Nobody in the history of time has ever changed anything by thinking like this.

Let your passion be the thing that fires you on.

9. Effective Delegation


  • Delegate tasks based on colleagues’ strengths and expertise.
  • Maintain good communication, provide simple instructions and a clear focus. (Remember the pub test above).
  • Have regular progress reviews.


  • Micromanage or not trust your team.
  • Overburden any single team member with too many tasks.

10. Stay Motivated and Avoid Burnout


  • Celebrate small wins and milestones.
  • Look after yourself by following stress management techniques.
  • Celebrate failures and learn from them.


  • Overwork and neglect self-care.
  • Allow setbacks to demotivate the team.
  • Let failures be the excuse you won’t try something again. Explore why it didn’t work last time and have a laugh about it.

11. Dealing with Procrastination


  • Use strategies like setting deadlines and making yourself accountable to colleagues.
  • Break tasks into smaller, more manageable parts to reduce the overwhelm.


  • Ignore the signs of procrastination.
  • Allow distractions to derail your focus.

For more tips on this there’ are plenty of helpful articles on the internet. This article helps people with ADHD, but is still helpful. 6 Strategies To Beat ADHD Procrastination

12. Managing Unexpected Obstacles


  • Stay adaptable and be prepared to adapt as necessary.
  • Ask colleagues to support you when things don’t go to plan, have some contingency plans.


  • Panic or become discouraged by obstacles.
  • Ignore potential risks and not plan for them.
  • Forget your colleagues are there to support you, even if it’s just someone to chat with.

Be punk, give it a go!

I can’t guarantee that these steps are going to make your new project a success. I’ve had some great successes and other things that just haven’t worked.

In summary this is your initial idea, and your motivations for doing it. If you feel it has the potential to change the world and you’re in a good place to get it going, then go for it.

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Paul Richards Executive Director, Stay Up Late

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