I've become quite fascinated lately with home-brewed versions of the
For any project in work and life, it is helpful to transform lofty goals into small, actionable tasks. Here's a framework for your consideration:
Project, Increments, Milestones, Action Steps
Project: This is the big, bold thing you want to do: writing a book, launching a website, completing the next version of your product.
Increments: These are the arbitrary, but equal, periods of time within the project that you assign yourself to make progress. You could think about the work and writing on a book project in two-week increments -- which means breaking down the project into separate two-week blocks.
Milestones that you assign to each increment are achievements you can reasonably reach within that increment. Spend the most energy focusing on the next increment ahead, and determine the milestones for the upcoming increment carefully.
To continue our book-writing example, you might tell yourself, "In the next two-week increment, I'll outline the first and second chapters. And I'll aim to do chapters 3 and 4 in the increment after that."
Action Steps: Every milestone ultimately breaks down into a series of tasks. These action steps are all associated with a milestone you plan to accomplish in the next increment. You might identify a series of action steps for outlining your first two chapters: transcribe your first six interviews; follow up with your editor to answer your questions; start the formatting that you plan to use for your outline. (Notice that these action steps all start with verbs.)
If too many tasks emerge under a particular milestone, then you are less likely to accomplish that milestone within that increment. You either need to break that milestone down into more specific milestones, or bump it to the next increment altogether. It's this iterative approach that keeps a project organized and provides momentum.
For those of us who work in teams, we should congregate periodically in quick five- to 10-minute check-ins (while standing -- no sitting please!) to reaffirm the milestones and tasks for each increment in our active projects. All too often, we get hung up on the big picture. We must ultimately remember that all progress comes down to capturing and executing action steps.
This article is based on research by Behance CEO Scott Belsky, whose new book Making Ideas Happen is a Wall Street Journalbestseller. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.