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Tips for Dealing with Difficult Projects

The most difficult part of any project is the blank page.

No matter what type of work you do in the tourism industry, chances are some of your responsibilities require you to create pieces of communication to share with others. This could include writing an itinerary, formulating a marketing plan, compiling an e-newsletter, composing blog posts or sending important information to trip participants.

If these tasks are the most difficult part of your job, you’re not alone. Crafting communications can be difficult for anybody. And often, getting started is the hardest part.

My role in this industry is all about communication. And over the years, I have found some techniques that help me get around the intimidation of staring down a blank page. Maybe some of these ideas will help you on your next big project.

1) Make an outline.

In grade school, my teachers insisted I begin writing projects by creating a full outline of the paper’s content. At the time, it felt like busywork; now it’s an indispensable tool. Making an outline allows you to organize the key points and concepts you want to cover without worrying about the words you’ll use to communicate them. This technique works well for people who are organized, linear thinkers.

2) Do a data dump.

If you’re working on a project that has a lot of facts and figures — say, an itinerary with flight data and hotel addresses or a budget proposal with lots of numbers — try putting that essential data on the blank page as your first step. Many people struggle to get going on projects because they don’t know exactly how to communicate these important details. But I have found that once I get the key data on the page, the story I want to tell naturally coalesces around it.

3) Start in the middle.

Few of us can effectively create a communication straight through from beginning to end. Most good ideas don’t start with an introduction and end with a conclusion. Instead, they are conceived as single thoughts that must be developed into maturity. If you have a core concept, start writing in the middle, where the idea is most developed. As your creative juices get flowing, you’ll figure out the intro, supporting points and conclusion.

4) Run sprints.

On large or complex projects, the sheer size of the work in front of you can leave you paralyzed with fear. And your brain isn’t wired for you to sit still and work nonstop for hours until the project is done. To solve these problems, try “running sprints.” Set aside a short amount of time — say, 10 to 15 minutes — and work as fast as you can on one small part of the project. When time is up, stop working and take a break. Alternating intense work with plenty of breaks can help stimulate your creativity and counteract the intimidation factor of a big project.

5) Give yourself permission to fail.

Perfection is the enemy of productivity. We often struggle to start projects because we’re afraid the finished products won’t be very good. So embrace that fear and make it part of the creative process. Accept that your first draft of the project won’t be your best work. Then start hammering it out without worrying about the small details. You can (and should) come back and revise the project several times before you send it out. But removing the pressure of perfectionism will make it much easier to get started.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.