Column: Don't Let That Project Sit

By J.G. Pasterjak
Jul 16, 2020 | Project Cars, Columns | Posted in Columns | From the Aug. 2020 issue | Never miss an article

By now, you may have noticed that the giant remote that controls the world is stuck. The pause button is jammed in place, and no amount of fiddling with a paper clip seems to be able to free it. And no, this is not going to be another one of those “in these times…” musings, because if we never have to hear that phrase again, it will be too soon.

But we do need to talk about how many of us handled productivity and how we kept-or at least tried to keep-projects going through this ongoing interruption.

First, it’s been fascinating to watch the stages of shutdown reality hit people and view their various reactions. Some flipped past the grief model, starting right off the bat with gleeful acceptance and sharing every instance of productivity porn they possible could: “I’m getting so much done! My inbox has never been cleaner! I’ve lost weight! My yard looks like a five-star resort!”

These people, obviously, are setting themselves up for failure. They’re everyone who camped out for six days before Black Friday to buy a cheap VCR, only to end up with, well, a cheap VCR. Essentially, that amount of hype is never sustainable.

On the other hand, you have the doom prophets. These are the ones who just cranked up some Joy Division and sat clutching their knees in the middle of a darkened living room muttering, “Game over, man. Game over.”

Many of these folks, fortunately, found this reaction unsustainable as well. We’re a clever and well-connected species, even if we’re not always the kindest to each other. Sooner or later, we figure out how to keep things clicking along, even if we have to adjust a few of the procedures.

But adjustment clearly was needed and will continue to be necessary. As I sit here writing this column in my shop’s little office, I’m staring at a Corvette that’s been sitting on the lift for more than a few months. Not that I haven’t been motivated to get the car finished, but some of the realities of keeping a project going in these times have certainly intervened. Supply chains were interrupted, shop time requiring additional help became logistically cumbersome, and the general stress of the world made it difficult to stay focused on a goal.

Not to mention the fact that we’ve been busier than ever, producing lots of content with limited resources–because that seems to be something that keeps people happy in these times.

Still, progress must go on, so here’s a few tips to keep a project on track–or get a project back on track, whether it’s been derailed because of a worldwide pandemic or any of a host of other perfectly valid reasons.

1. Keep making progress.

Even if no parts are arriving, no help is available, and nothing needs to be done, do something-regularly. Clean something, polish something, deburr something, paint something, whatever. Even if it doesn’t feel like progress, it’s at least maintaining the emotional and psychological connection between you and the work. And who knows, you might find something that could really stand some improvement while you’re doing your deep dive.

2. Put effort into the project, not into sidelining the project.

Our Corvette has been on my lift for a couple months without subframes. That means it has rendered my lift unusable for anything else, as the car can’t be rolled.

At one point, I considered building a giant dolly so I could roll the tub out of the way, but eventually I talked myself out of it. While in some cases this may be a perfectly valid approach, I couldn’t bring myself to put money, effort and time into building something that did not help the project progress but instead helped me push it out of the way.

Instead, I went back and cleaned up my fabrication on some of the dry sump mounts, organized and cataloged parts, and, yeah, cleaned stuff. You may be better at this than I am, but the temptation to turn a frontline project into furniture needed to be purged from my mind pretty quickly.

3. Be flexible on deadlines and have a backup plan.

At some point, you realize that some of your progress is limited by forces outside your control.

I’ve been waiting a while for a clutch, because the clutch company was waiting for a machine to mill titanium, but that machine couldn’t be shipped because of pandemic-related transportation issues. I mean, sometimes I can make a few phone calls and shake loose a few sticky patches, but I haven’t progressed to “make a titanium-milling machine appear out of thin air” levels of juice yet.

Still, editorial must be produced, and progress must continue. While we’ve been waiting on those parts, we’ve shuffled other content and tasks to the front burner.

I’m not saying this list is a set of unbreakable rules. Honestly, it’s as much for me as it is any of you. But luckily, sitting right next to that Corvette outside my window is the brand-new, twin-disc Mantic clutch that I’ve been waiting on, which is literally the last piece we need before we can actually start reassembling the car.

Now I just need to figure out what mask to wear when Jesse comes over to help bolt it in.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Ranger50 UltimaDork
7/16/20 8:58 a.m.

Excellent article.

I'm in the "rut", but only because I can work on the project when it's available for me to work on. But I have been gathering parts, searching out different avenues whether the source of parts, paying for those parts, or hiding of the parts purchased.

Pretty soon it'll be in the have to wait at least 13 weeks before I can work on it again.... Maybe it's time for another project. winklaughcheeky

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/16/20 9:13 a.m.

Timely. I was discussing the little bites (30 for 30) everyday approach with a rallyx buddy, and how it's helpful to so many if you can just get started. Hopefully starting a build thread will keep me accountable, too.

It's hard to stay motivated but we are still plugging along. While I haven't touched the G35 in months, the 16" lathe gets a little TLC regularly and Dirtie the B210 got a wiring harness, ECU and fuse box this past weekend. All for a race that may or may not happen come September. 

When all else fails, you can always buy another project just to have something to do. 

Me, I bought a boat that needs more work than I hoped.


egnorant SuperDork
7/16/20 12:04 p.m.

Reads like a bit of my shop philosophy! My project scrap metal 4 post lift is a wonderful example. All the starts and stops, obstacles of slow parts, missing parts, late discovered much needed parts and realizing that I must back up a lot to get it right can test the best of me. Plenty of side projects available get me though the down time.

Motivation is one of my shortcomings. My brother and I kick each others butt and are not slow with the shaming if we get the "not tonights" or "I'm gonna stare at it for a few minutes before finding that piece I need" .

A build post is a terrific motivator. Not only for the original poster but for most who read it too. 

I may have overdone it on the motivation last month when I realized that while hammering through my list of end items on my Mustang I neglected reading "Say What" for 3 days!! Usually I read it in the post office parking lot!



metallitubby New Reader
7/16/20 12:21 p.m.

I decided to build a house and shop in the middle of all this craziness. Supply delays you say? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah.


BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/16/20 6:26 p.m.

My wife got me a Nintendo Switch for my birthday and my project is on temporary hold while Calamity Ganon gets a smack down.

My personal go to to keep projects moving along is don't use it as a desk/table/storage rack.  Let it get buried in stuff and the project will get buried too.

Patientzero GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/16/20 7:57 p.m.

When I work on things I make a mess and leave tools out everywhere which makes me lose motivation to work.  Then I clean it all up and suddenly I'm motivated to work on things again.  It's crazy but it works.

frenchyd PowerDork
7/16/20 8:39 p.m.
metallitubby said:

I decided to build a house and shop in the middle of all this craziness. Supply delays you say? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah.


I'm still building my house and SWMBO will not let me back off until its's done. scaffolds up next comes paper and lath  finally Stucco  

metallitubby New Reader
7/17/20 3:03 p.m.
frenchyd said:

I'm still building my house and SWMBO will not let me back off until its's done.

I am maybe two months out from my shop and house being complete. I am at the phase of the build where I get angry every time I visit the site.

7/17/20 3:25 p.m.

Item #9 is a killer. It happens only AFTER you think you have crossed the finish line.

During the last part of a project, you often enter into a manic phase where no amount of time or money is too much since the project is worthless until it is done. "Just get it on the road" is what drives you.


After it hits the road comes the other side of the manic swing: It is NOT heaven on wheels. You made bad design moves, you did something wrong and it rattles. Maybe an engine or a gearbox fails. You will notice that you are not moving other cars out of the way to drive the Hot Rod.What works for me is to re-introduce the car as a new project. Treat the flaws as opportunities to do something better based on what you learned.


I will also add another item to the list "What you built is mediocre"

While your original idea might have been brilliant, if what you assembled is a collection of "Good enoughs" traveling in close formation, then the final result is going to be pretty disappointing.

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