Take Baby Steps to Achieve Your Goals


A great post on lifehacker yesterday was again about productivity and Getting Things Done – one of their favorite subjects besides the many great technical tips they deliver each and every day.

Taking baby steps is better than taking no steps at all! Sometimes, you may have only 10 minutes to work towards your goal. Instead of being discouraged by the lack of time, make the best of it. If you add up the work produced over a year, you’ll see that true progress has been made.

Why is it so difficult to get certain things done ? One major reason for me is: I am not motivated to get them done and don’t want to spend much time on it. It’s something I simply hate doing – like my annual tax declaration.
This is something useless in my eyes – why can’t they just reduce my tax a bit and leave me alone with their forms I need to fill out every year to get back a small subset of my money; why can’t tax laws be much simpler than they are today ? – but needs to be done anyway, right ? It is definitely something staying on my to-do list for long since I hate doing that job and hate wasting an entire valuable Sunday afternoon on this bureaucratic and fun-less task.
The only way for me to get it done is to cut that into small 20-minute pieces I can squeeze into my time here and then: collect receipts, make copies, fill out the first sheet with general data about me, complete first sheet with all the numbers needed there, fill out the second sheet with more numbers, check and sign.
It makes it easier to get started, since you have cut the big goal “Get my tax declaration done” into those many small goals I just listed. Thus it makes it less painful to achieve these small goals and a “good feeling” award is obtained quickly by accomplishing the first of the small goals. A good feeling: you started on it and you see progress right away. Taking baby steps is better than taking no steps at all! How true ! Motivated by this good feeling I even might decide to start working on the second small goal right away – and pretty soon you are suddenly done with your main goal !

Isn’t project planning following the exact same approach, usually a top-down approach when it comes to doing a product break down and then a work break down to obtain a plan consisting of many small tasks which hopefully can be measured and managed and handled by one or many of your team members ?

Assume you have the objective to deliver a huge complex Customer Relationship Management System for a huge customer. No way to start with that one task “Create a huge complex Customer Relationship Management System for a huge customer.” You definitely would sit down with your experts and first break the deliverable – the huge complex system – into smaller components – one or more database(s), a web server, a web user front end …. -, then think about the tasks and sub-tasks to deliver each of those components.

It is one art in project planning to find the right level of detail. There are megabytes of discussion threads out there what the right level of detail might be. On one side you don’t want to make your project plan so complex that you and nobody else can’t manage it anymore. On the other side you want to end up with tasks easy to estimate, to verify and to be handled by one or more members of your team.

It the task becomes too big for your team member he or she could use his or her own baby-step approach to cut it down further, right ?

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