1) Agree on the problem first
The project you are working on, is an answer to something. If all the problems have been solved and needs catered, what is there left to do? Nothing, but fortunately that is rarely the case. Rather, there are often way too many things to be addressed. You can’t save the whole world with one project – you know that! But where to start is the trickiest question. People from different backgrounds share different values. A major issue in your view might not be a priority for someone else. To define the problem and a topic you will be working on, it is important to do your background research well, meet and discuss and then meet and discuss again.
2) Choose your partners, let them help and teach you but be in charge of the direction
Once you have specified your interests a bit, it’s time for action. Who do you know who might know something? Google. Call. Don’t hesitate to admit your gaps of knowledge and ask insights from experts – even dozens of experts. You will get help: people are interested if you are doing something related to what they are doing. If you have been contacting a lot of people, it might quickly start to feel overwhelming. Try to figure out what you want to get out of each discussion and make notes. It doesn’t help if you have five skype meetings a week but don’t remember anything about them later on.
3) Don’t be afraid of seeking financial support but don’t sell your soul
Projects need money to run in this world. Use creativity in your search of funding. Check funds, foundations, scholarships and grants. Use databases for searching. Contact companies that are working in a related field. Figure out something valuable that you can offer to them – is it something tangible or intangible? Be prepared for no’s and contact a lot more companies. When an interested sponsor comes along, be clear about your project objectives and scope. Sponsors want to know what they are financing and they have own ideas and interests too. Try to find a common ground of interests but remember that you are not making the project for the sponsor. Always call back.
4) Work on it and take a break afterwards
You can work a lot toward one goal. It is possible to dedicate all your time to one project. Does it make it better? It might. Is it worth it? It might not. Remember the usual eat, sleep, stay hydrated and have some free time as well. Dropping all other responsibilities might not be a good idea either. What you learn elsewhere in your studies or work, may help you with your project a lot more than you think. When you work for the project, do it efficiently. If you don’t have anything else going on, the rule of eight is good on a daily basis: 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of free time.
5) Remember your timeframe
If you have a 5-month project, don’t make a plan for a two-year project. Acknowledge the time and resources you have and make the most out of them. It is a valuable skill to be able to deliver something in a short timeframe but don’t make yourself become overloaded.
6) Teamwork requires team spirit
This is the most important one: have fun together. People tend to work better together when they know each other’s background and motivation, feel comfortable in the team and trust their peers. It is not enough if you work for the shared goal every day but never meet in person. And it is not enough if you have meetings every day but never see each other in any other context or have fun. Have “informal meetings”, have dinner together, go do a sport activity or just hang out at one of the team member’s home. Don’t pass these meetings as not as important as the “official” ones but instead give them the value they deserve.