There is no easy way to get things done. You actually have to put in the work. But having clear action steps helps alleviate the stress of figuring out how to conquer a big project.
The steps below will help you maximize the time you have to get the big things you’ve been avoiding done. This could be organizing and cleaning specific rooms in your house. It could be writing a paper for grad school or your first draft for a book. It might be a gardening project at your house or doing home improvements. Whatever your project, use the tips below to maximize your time to begin getting things done.
#1 – Make a Plan
Think about that project that you’ve been making slow or no progress on. The one you’ve been avoiding. Think about the questions below and I’d recommend writing down the answers.
- What is the project and what does it entail?
- What does finishing the project look like? What are the specifics that will indicate it’s fully completed?
- What is the timeline? Think about the due date as well as any time you have to work on it leading up to the deadline.
- Are you doing this solo or with others?
- What other big considerations are important to note?
#2 – Break it Down
Now that you’ve brainstormed what the project is, what it will look like when completed, the timeline, and other considerations, it’s time to break it down. To do this, begin by thinking about the end of the project. Think about the finish line and what date that is as well as what all needs to be completed by then. Now work backwards.
Let’s look at an example:
You have a first draft of a novel you’ve like to write with the goal to finish it in one year which will require many hours of writing. Rather than focusing on the result of 50,000 words or about 200 pages, break it down into actionable milestones of 5,000 word sections. If you wrote 5,000 words per month, you’d meet your goal of the 50,000 words by 1 year with some room to spare. To plan out your time each month, it would mean writing about 1500 words per week. This equates to about 2-4 hours a week depending on the depth of the writing.
With this information, you can now create a weekly plan. It could look like 1 hour 2-3 days a week, or maybe one evening or weekend morning blocked off for writing. We took a huge seemingly impossible 50,000 word projects and broke it down into weekly actions. That’s what you should do with your project.
Scheduling these either daily or weekly action items into your routine will be essential for making progress on your project. This should be seen as an appointment with yourself that’s non-negotiable. This is the only way progress happens. By putting in the work.
#3 – Track Progress
So now you have a plan for how to break down the project into pieces. Now we talk about how to track progress. This can look different for everyone. When I was working on video scripts for my online course, I laid out the outline into a few separate parts. When I finished each part, I simply checked off a box in a notebook indicating that portion was complete. I had a goal of how many boxes I’d check off during each of my sessions when I was working on the outlines. I made progress and it felt so good to keep seeing the progress compound over time.
You can track progress a variety of ways but something visual is usually most appealing. This could be logging it in a notebook, in a spreadsheet or other document, a print out, or doing something even more creative. I’ve seen people add marbles to a jar with each action item completed or others that have made a paper chain and have torn off a link when each item is completed. You make the most progress on your goals when you find a way that works for you. Design something that will work for you.
#4 – Build in Incentives
Reward yourself. Lay out some milestones with a reward connected to each. They could be small like going to work at a coffee shop as the reward for the day, or maybe getting new sneakers when you finish a certain amount of training for your marathon, or buying new dishes when you finish organizing the downstairs of your house. Other ideas include a nice meal to celebrate an accomplishment or doing a fun restful activity after you finished a big sprint of work. Make sure your incentives actually motivate you to keep going and are things that are realistic and don’t keep you from your goals. They should also be spaced out far enough that they are not too easy to reach. They should be positioned at points where you’re most likely to quit but instead you have to keep going to reach them.
You can also build in random incentives. I know this sounds a little weird, but I’ve been following a fitness program where they talk about this and the psychology behind this. Not only do you reward yourself for doing and accomplishing hard things and sticking with it, but infrequently you should just reward yourself. For sticking with it, even if it’s not a big milestone.
I’d encourage you to set a few bigger milestones in your journey, and also to set maybe 1-3 random occurrences where you reward yourself just to celebrate the fact that you’re still at it and working on that project you could have so easily avoided. These will help you build momentum.
#5 – Celebrate
Remember slow progress is better than no progress. Little by little good things add up and create momentum. The longer you stick with something, the more momentum you create toward your goal. It’s not about perfectly achieving the goal or the project. It’s about all the progress you make in the mean time. No matter how far you get in this project and journey, remember it’s about all the work you’re putting in and the commitment you’re keeping to yourself far more than it’s about finishing a goal perfectly. Progress matters. Commitment matters. Keep going and celebrate along the way!