If you're an entrepreneur or leader in a business, you can probably list one or two--maybe even four or five--major projects that need to be finished, but that you just can't seem to make progress on.
Essentially, putting off large projects in your business is a form of procrastination, and it affects us all. With our coaching clients, it is a constant source of angst. Our clients constantly ask, "With everything I need to do on a daily basis, how do I also move the major projects forward? What's a strategy I can use to get them done?"
The solution is often put this way: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
It's long been proven that we can accomplish any project if we break it up into small enough pieces and tackle the project one piece at a time. Yet even though many of us know this strategy, we still find ourselves struggling to finish the projects we need to do. So how do we combat this?
First, it helps to understand why we procrastinate on large projects. Our brains tend to focus on the enormity of the work ahead of us and the most difficult or challenging parts of that project, making the project seem impossible. In order to avoid the unpleasant challenge and impossible seeming goal, we find ways to distract ourselves and avoid those difficult parts.
In fact, our brains will often turn us to busy work to further distract us from the larger project. By completing a bunch of small tasks that are easy and loosely related to the large project, we feel like we're being productive even though we haven't made any real progress.
So in order to make progress on our projects, we need to break down those projects into small enough goals to fit among our other daily business tasks. This helps circumvent the causes of procrastination and the way our brain tricks us into thinking we're being productive.
Research shows that breaking down large goals into small, actionable steps helps break down the "mountain" that our minds make of large projects. Further, once we start a project, our brains are hardwired to complete it. It's the same mechanism that keeps us reading late into the night to find out what happens at the end of the book. We need that feeling of completeness.
So by breaking large projects down into small enough steps, you can over overcome the force keeping you from starting your project, and once you do, you'll gain momentum and pace that will help you drive your project to completion.
With this in mind, I find that one of the main reasons this strategy fails for entrepreneurs is that they don't break it down into small enough steps. Our general rule is that each step should be something you can accomplish in a day. You have to be able to add it to your list of daily business tasks and complete alongside everything else. Otherwise, you'll keep completing your daily tasks and put off the larger, multi-day ones over and over again.
So pick one of those projects you've been putting off, break it down and down and down until you have tasks you can complete each day, and then get started. You'll be amazed by how quickly your project gains pace and momentum. After a while, it'll practically drive itself!