From idea to execution, but where’s the plan?


Anyone who has ever managed a project either at work or in private life (for example: booking a holiday, getting married, buying a car or a house…) will know that the better the planning, the more likely the successful outcome. Of course, some projects require more planning than others, but overall you would need to be very lucky to go straight from idea to execution and land a successful project without encountering some struggles in between. It is far more likely that you would end up with disappointing results or in the worst case, a complete failure.

Unfortunately, many people who attempt to quit smoking don’t think of quitting smoking as a project and they don’t plan sufficiently ahead, other than potentially choosing a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and thinking of a vague strategy to avoid smoking, especially in the first few days. Granted, some people may save the money they would have spent on cigarettes, but that comes as a side-effect of quitting rather than being an integral part of the project. I can’t blame anyone for this lack of planning because there is no concrete tangible result to aim for, other than being able to say that you no longer do something that you used to do, or that you feel healthier, or wealthier, but at what point? Also, there is no real end to the project, because it is presumably a situation for life. In other words, quitting smoking appears to lack some of the key elements of most projects, and it is more about undoing than doing. But, I would still argue that quitting smoking should be considered as a project and planned as such.

The detail of that planning is far too long to go into in a short post such as this, and is explored in much more detail in my upcoming book, but in a nutshell it comes down to this:

1) Understand what drives you to smoke.

2) Explore why you want to quit.

3) Learn what to expect from others who have quit before you.

5) Learn about and understand the nature of cravings (physical, psychological) and how to combat them.

4) Discuss your quit smoking plans with people who can support you.

5) Decide which method of quitting to use (cold turkey, NRT, acupuncture, Chantix/Champix etc.)

6) Determine if medical supervision could be beneficial.

6) Build a plan of how to keep yourself busy in the first few days, weeks, months instead of smoking.

7) Decide when you want to quit.

8) Quit.

9) Take personal responsibility for your quit.

10) Regularly reward yourself for your achievement (it doesn’t have to be monetary).

Behind each of these steps are several sub-steps and sometimes side-steps. The 10 steps above are a simple outline, but I would like to point out that the actual quitting only occurs in step 8, well after the initial planning. In other words, the project planning takes a significant amount of consideration before the actual quitting process starts. It is not a question of going from an idea (I want to quit) to execution (quitting), but instead following a real project strategy:  idea -> planning -> execution.

Above I said that there is no tangible result to aim for, nor a real end to the project, the reason being that it is impossible to know up front at what point a person feels they have succeeded. Everyone measures their success according to their own individual criteria. In my humble opinion, however, I would say that positive results and the end of the project coincide when an individual feels proud of their achievement and feels confident that they won’t ever smoke again.

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