We all have those projects on our list: the ones that would make a big difference in our lives and our practices – if we could only get them done. But we don’t know where to start. And we don’t have time. And we have so many urgent tasks that we need to do now. So the big, important project stays on the list and gathers dust.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Break it Down

Uncertain where to startThis isn’t rocket science of course. We’ve all heard that the way to accomplish big tasks is to break it down into smaller ones. But somehow it still happens that when I look at that big scary project, my brain seems to freeze and I find it’s so much easier to do routine tasks. Or check my email. Or see what’s happening on Facebook.

So it occurs to me that the problem is not that we don’t know that we need to break a project down, but that we don’t know how to go about doing that. I’ve tried several different methods over the years and have found a few methods that work well on various sorts of projects. You can try them yourself to see if they work for you.

Nibble Away

You can accomplish big things just one small bite at a time. If you’re looking at a project or goal that is so overwhelming that you can’t even begin to think about how to start, don’t try. Instead think “What can I do today that will get me one step closer to completing that project?” Maybe you want to move your practice to a value pricing model, but you’re not even sure where to start. Your nibble for the day could be registering for a free webinar (actually attending the webinar is a nibble for another day) or simply reading a blog article.

I find that little, un-organized bites may not be the most efficient way to get something done, but they do get me there eventually. They work especially well for those projects where I have no idea how to begin. In addition, taking those little nibbles keep the project from gathering dust and getting pushed aside. It also keeps the project on my mind and I find myself having little bursts of insight about what to do next while doing the dishes or going for a walk.

Map it Out

Of course, a more efficient way of getting the job done is to map it all out ahead of time. You can do this two different ways: proceeding logically from the first thing that needs to happen to the last. This works well for a project that’s been done before– either by you or by someone who is kind enough to share their process with you (the internet is your friend here).

Sometimes I can’t decide what the first task of a big project should be, so I simply figure out what a task would be. Then I look at that task and figure out if anything needs to get done before I can do it. Then I ask myself what would be the next logical step. If I continue this way, I find I soon have a nice roadmap to completing my project in small, easy to handle tasks.

The Buddy System

Use the Buddy SystemWhether you’re nibbling away at a project, have it all mapped out, or you’re still struggling with how to get started, consider getting an accountability buddy. An accountability buddy is a colleague or co-worker who will meet with you on a regular basis to talk about the current status and next steps of your projects (and visa versa). Knowing that you have to talk to someone else about what you’ve gotten done is a great motivator. But beyond that, the chance to bounce ideas around with another person will give you fresh insights and help you get past roadblocks. That second set of eyes will provide new solutions and new ways of looking at things.

Just Get Started

There’s a saying in sports “100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t score.” Along those lines, I can say with certainty that 100% of the projects you don’t start will never get finished. So take a look at your list, find an important project that’s been gathering dust, and give it a little love.