When tackling big projects, it can be tempting to focus on the end result. However, as any seasoned project manager knows, successful execution of a large project requires breaking it down into smaller tasks with specific deliverables and completion criteria.
Whether you’re working on a creative project for school or a real-world venture, giving each task its due attention is essential to its success.
After all, no great work comes from a lazy attitude towards completing small tasks in a larger project. If you’re struggling to get started on your next large project or want to take your existing projects to the next level, consider implementing the following strategies: they will help you break down those huge tasks into manageable ones that are easier to manage and track.
1. Create a to-do list
The best way to break down a large project is to make a list of all the tasks that must be completed to achieve the desired outcome. Try making a table that has separate columns for the different tasks, each with their own date and time estimate, action, responsible person, and relevance.
Make sure to add a contingency plan for failure and additional time for unforeseen circumstances. You can see at a glance what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who is responsible for completing the task.
A to-do list also makes it easier to delegate tasks to team members and to manage uncertainty by providing a clear picture of the project’s overall timeline as well as the specific deadlines and deliverables of each task.
2. Define measurable outcomes
Defining measurable outcomes is critical to laying a solid foundation for any project and makes it easier to break down tasks. It also helps you stay focused on the end result and prioritize tasks based on their impact on achieving it.
A good way to start defining outcomes is to think about your project’s main goal and key objectives. From there, break each objective down into three to five measurable outcomes. Defining measurable outcomes can be challenging, especially if you’re working on a creative project.
However, getting creative with the process will help you identify the most important aspects of your project and make those aspects much easier to break down into tasks.
3. Assign deadlines to tasks
Deadlines are crucial to ensuring that the most important tasks are completed on time and with maximum impact. For example, if you must create a new marketing campaign by a certain date to boost conversion rates, then you should prioritize tasks related to creating the campaign and make sure they’re completed by that date—regardless of the other work you’re doing.
Well-defined deadlines will also help you stay focused and prioritize tasks based on how long they will take to complete.
This will make it easier to identify and remove the biggest bottlenecks in your project. Deadlines also serve as a helpful reminder of the urgency of certain tasks. For example, if you know that your campaign must be complete by a certain date, then you will be less likely to procrastinate on completing the necessary prep work.
4. Track the biggest bottlenecks
As you’re prioritizing tasks based on their relative importance and completion date, track the biggest bottlenecks in your project. These will likely be the tasks that drag down the rest of your project. Identifying the biggest bottlenecks will help you remove them without affecting the rest of your project.
For example, if graphic design is the biggest bottleneck in your project, then you can ask designers to finish the design process for the most important tasks before tackling the less important ones.
Alternatively, you can delegate the less important tasks to other team members and ask the designers to focus on designing only the most important aspects of the project.
5. Ask team members what’s slowing them down
Team members may be able to help you identify the biggest bottlenecks in your project. Ask them what is slowing them down, what tasks are taking too long to complete, and what can be done to help alleviate their pain points.
If certain tasks are taking too long, ask why. Once you know what is taking too long and why, you can work with team members to find ways to make those tasks easier. You may even be able to eliminate the bottlenecks entirely by delegating them to other team members or changing their priority.
In the process, you’ll also make your team members feel more appreciated and involved in the project. This will likely increase their productivity and overall morale.
6. Identify the most important tasks
Besides defining measurable outcomes and assigning deadlines to tasks, you should also prioritize the most important tasks. This may require you to weigh the importance of certain tasks against the dates they are due. For example, if your project must generate revenue by a certain date, then revenue-generating tasks should be prioritized over non-revenue-generating ones.
For large projects, it can be helpful to prioritize tasks based on their contribution to the end result. For example, if your project is to create a marketing campaign that boosts revenue by 20%, then the tasks that contribute most to the revenue boost should be prioritized over the others.
7. Define the scope of each task
Once you’ve defined measurable outcomes for your project, assigned deadlines to the most important tasks, and identified the biggest bottlenecks holding you back from achieving those tasks, it’s time to define the scope of each task. This will help you to identify what resources are needed to complete each task, when they should be completed by, and how long they will take to complete.
It will also help you to better manage team members’ expectations regarding the times they need to complete the tasks. This will be particularly helpful if you’re working with remote team members.
For each task, ask yourself: What needs to be done to complete this task? What resources (e.g., people, materials, etc.) are required to complete it? When must the task be completed by? How long will it take to complete it?
8. Assign staff and resources
Once you’ve defined the scope of each task, you should also assign staff and resources to each task based on their level of importance and availability. For example, if your project must generate revenue by a certain date, then the revenue-generating tasks should be assigned to team members who have the highest skill and ability to produce the results you need.
Similarly, if certain tasks are taking too long to complete due to lack of resources, then you should assign alternative resources to those tasks—whether it’s people or materials. This will ensure that the most important tasks are completed first, and the right personnel are assigned to complete them.
It will also help you to avoid spreading yourself too thin simply because you want to do everything. Assigning resources will also help you to identify the level of expertise needed to complete each task. You can then factor this into your decision-making process as you work towards completing all of your tasks on time.
9. Create a project roadmap and task-by-task breakdown
Once you’ve broken down your project into manageable tasks, it’s a good idea to create a roadmap that includes each task and its estimated duration. This will allow you to easily keep track of what’s been completed, what’s currently being worked on, and what’s coming up next.
For example, if your project is to create a marketing campaign, then you may have several tasks from beginning to end. These tasks may include creating a campaign outline, designing marketing materials, creating an ad, and conducting customer research, among other things.
Once you’ve broken down these tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, you should include them on your project roadmap. This will make it easier to track your progress and will help you to manage uncertainty by knowing exactly what you’ve completed and what you’ll be working on next.
10. Define measurable success criteria for each task
Now that you’ve broken down tasks and created a project roadmap, it’s time to define the measurable success criteria for each task. Success criteria are the specific indicators that tell you the task has been completed successfully.
For example, if your project is to create a marketing campaign, the measurable success criteria for each task might be as follows: Create a campaign outline – the outline should include five compelling campaign benefits Design marketing materials – the design should include four marketing materials (e.g., website, brochure, etc.)