How to Break Long-Term Projects Down into Small Tasks

long term project breakdownA journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step, and then another and another until before you know it; you are already inside your car, driving to the airport, getting onto the plane and flying to your ‘thousand miles’ destination. That’s how something big can be accomplished easily and efficiently, with small consecutive steps rather than one huge leap.

Long-term projects, unlike short-term ones, are huge undertakings that will require much more resources in terms of time, manpower and mind skills. Breaking such projects down into smaller tasks will certainly help you, the project manager, manage and have it accomplished easily. It will also help you get started on the project sooner because it is always easy and less intimidating to start on something small.

Not all projects are the same though, and therefore there cannot be a standard formula for breaking down every long-term project into small tasks. Nevertheless, there are specific guidelines that you can use every time to determine how best to break down a big project. Here’s how to break long-term projects down into small tasks:


1. Define the Project

Projects normally require more than one action to be completed. A website development project for instance includes graphic design, programming/coding, content development, hosting and so many other actions which are required to complete the whole project. If such is your long-term project, where you need to also provide constant maintenance and marketing as an after service, then get down and define everything that concerns that project first.

Every long-term project has individual tasks that can be separated from the rest. Define your project and identify these points because it is from these that you are going to be a able to break down the whole project into small tasks that can be handled independently. This will also include the time frame available, which should be factored in as well when defining your whole project requirements.

2. Plan with Help

When it comes to working on any project, we all know that your whole team is your greatest tool, whether working with you or working remotely. Your team is going to be invaluable when it comes to breaking down a big project, so involve them in this process as opposed to just setting up tasks and handing them out. Also make use of a project management application because it is going to make it even easier to plan the whole project from concept to completion.

With smaller tasks, delegation is also made possible and you get to enjoy the whole set of benefits of delegating tasks. Big and long-term projects will appear difficult to start, but with the help and ideas from your team, you will find ways to break them down into tasks that everyone can start working on all at the same time.

3. Break it Along Actionable Points

This is a very important guideline that ensures that any broken down task can actually be done. Sometimes certain tasks within the long-term project are interdependent, meaning that one relies on the results of the other and vice versa. If you break down the project along the points where a task cannot be fully done alone this is only going to stall the project.

Your broken down tasks should also ideally be in actual action steps so as to be certain that they can be done. A typical broken down task should be a specific task like ‘draw the layout sketch for the front page’ as opposed to a task that simply states, ‘start work on the web pages’. The longer the list of smaller tasks you have, the better for you because it will mean that the tasks you have are truly small and specific.

4. Prioritize Crucial Tasks

If you are going to break down a project into small steps, you will need to have a “need to be done first list” that goes well with the kind of project you are working on. The important thing is to have a list that starts with the crucial parts of the whole project. The kind of parts that really determine the direction a project is going to take.

Starting with a less vital task can sometimes lead to a repeat of that particular step later on when it becomes apparent that the task needed to be done in a certain way once the critical parts are dealt with. You should prepare a comprehensive list with categories of what is more important than the other.

5. Always Start Easy

After breaking down a project into smaller tasks and prioritizing, starting with the easiest always helps a lot in motivating you and the team to get the project underway. Huge and tough looking long-term projects occasionally have a way of attracting procrastination. Big undertakings tend to instill a sense of fear and uncertainty that causes people to unconsciously look for ways to avoid them. This is why as the project manager it is going to be up to you to schedule the easier tasks first, if only just to get it started.

Getting something big started is often the hardest part, but once it has commenced, then it becomes easy to get the whole thing done; you are left wondering why you hadn’t started it earlier, and that’s always the case with procrastination. However, with the project broken down into smaller tasks and making sure to start with the easiest task, the whole dynamics of working on large and long-term projects changes and effectively helps overcome procrastination.

Final Word

Long-term projects are very good for any business; they ensure the business has a secure source of revenue for a considerable time and therefore enhances its growth. Getting such projects will certainly be a plus for you and your company, but that will be determined by how well you handle them.

Breaking such projects down to manageable and doable little tasks has been proven as a sure way of handling long-term projects effectively and efficiently. Use the guidelines above the next time you land a big project and you will have an easy time getting it started and completed.

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