How to Accomplish Big Things

16 Mar

This is not something new.  Not a revelation.  Just the simple truth that we tend to forget when projects look daunting.

You accomplish big things by doing a lot of small things.

Not exactly profound. But completely true.

Take a goal or a project or a job. Break it down into steps.  If they aren’t manageable, break them down further.

Can you run a marathon?  Okay…can you run a mile?  Can you run 26.2 miles in a row if we train and only add one mile a week for 6 months.

Can you write a book?  Okay…can you write an outline?  Can you then flesh out one bullet point on that outline into a paragraph…or a page…or a chapter?

A good rule of thumb, for me, is that if each step is going to take more than a week, it is too large a step and must be broken down further.  I need to see occasional progress because I take pleasure in that.  My reward to myself is checking things off the ol’ to-do list. So if a “step” in my project is going to take a month or six months to complete, I have to break it down much further.

Step 1 of any project is planning the project.  Don’t forget this. The project starts now.  Give yourself time to make a clear battle plan, maybe run the plan by a few trusted advisors, maybe sleep on it.  Better to lose a few days planning than to jump right into the project and potentially get off track by accomplishing something…that doesn’t actually further your project.  So remember that planning the project IS part of the project.

The last step of any project is celebrating the achievement.  If it’s a personal achievement, celebrate it with family and friends.  Or by yourself.  A celebratory drink, a celebratory run, what I refer to as “Bonus Time” (a concept my roommate and I invented in college.  If you have a 4 hour exam and finish in 2 hrs and 20 minutes, you have an hour and 40 minutes of “bonus time” that may not be spent studying for the next exam. Give yourself a mental break.)

If it’s a team achievement, celebrate the team.  Drinks after work, a working lunch, a personal email to each person thanking them for their contribution.  Something.  Anything.  And maybe you don’t do this only once, maybe you celebrate milestones along the way.

We have to learn to look at the big picture and the details.  For most of us, we don’t have the luxury of either/or.  We need to understand why our little tasks matter and how they fit into the grander scheme of things.  We need to focus on the big things we want to accomplish by focusing on each little step closer.

Do little things.  Do them well.  Chart your progress. Then turn around and realize how far you’ve come.  And look ahead and see how much closer you are.

And if you can’t think of a way to use your “bonus time”, send it my way.  I’ll celebrate for you.




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