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Little Steps and Small Successes

Huge projects can be daunting and hard to tackle. Our natural tendency is to push them aside for later. I’ve found that the best way to successfully bring projects to completion is to “divide and conquer.”

Many years ago, I read a book which described a situation in which a group would take a project and break it up into smaller pieces. As they finished each phase, they would come together and raise a flag, visibly marking their progress toward completion. It was important that each member of the team rally around the flag post at the end of the day to celebrate each milestone.

I find it helpful to mindmap my projects, breaking them down into smaller projects and tasks for my to-do-list, which I tackle every day. I found it very interesting that our 37th President, Lyndon Johnson, used the same approach to get legislation passed in congress. He would take a proposed bill, break it into pieces, note who was in favor of its passage, and build on the support of each of these senators or representatives. He also made a list of those who were against the bill and would work his network, making one call at a time. He broke the process into small bits and was able to make progress towards the eventual passage of such notable bills as the tax bill of 1963-64 and the Civil Rights Bill, which were both stalled during the Kennedy administration and at the time of Kennedy’s assassination.

Working within businesses or organizations, we have to do the same. A project often seems too complex or overwhelming when you look at as a whole, but if you thoughtfully and strategically break it down into smaller projects which support the bigger one, you will be able to successfully bring the project to completion.

Completing a project requires discipline, organization and forethought. I had a mentor who used to tell me, “You can do anything you put your mind to — Can’t is not in our vocabulary.” I believe she was right, but in order to do this, you have to break the project into pieces. Work them diligently and celebrate each milestone as you walk the path to completion.