A simple tool to help you get the big projects done

by Michele on April 25, 2012

There’s a lot to do when you are a solopreneur whether you have outsourced help or not. Some of what we tackle is simple, task-oriented things but sometimes it’s aA simple tool to help solopreneurs tackle big projects huge overwhelming project. I have a secret weapon that helps me immensely when I’m facing one of these giants.

One of the problems with big projects is that they can be overwhelming. When you are looking at your to-do list, it’s much easier to tackle a simple task such as “update Facebook page” than it is to do a big project such as “promote teleseminar.” What can happen is the simple tasks get done and day after day, the big project gets skipped because of the difference in perceived difficulty. There’s also a difference in the satisfaction level of the two items. You can tackle a small task really quickly and get the satisfaction of crossing it off your to-do list right away. With a big project, it might be weeks before you get to cross it off. It’s no wonder that we solopreneurs sometimes push important things to the bottom of the list.

Usually, though, it’s the big, overwhelming projects that move our business ahead. The difference between successful, “I see you everywhere” businesses and “barely there” businesses are those big projects and the ability to get them done.

So how do I make those big projects do-able and not so overwhelming?

My must-have tool is a checklist. I do one for every big project, and often more than one if the big project has several smaller projects within it. The key to a good project checklist is in the details. I make my checklists as detailed as I need them to be to keep me out of overwhelm in focused on the project. How easy is it to get off track when doing a large project? Without my checklist, which functions as my road map, I can easily fall into the trap of wasting 20 minutes following rabbit holes on the web when all I wanted to do was Google how to do something. Often on a big project, the steps to complete it are comprised of multiple small tasks, and without a checklist it’s easy to mix up the order (costing wasted time and effort) or get sidetracked and wonder “What was I doing when I got started on this?”

Even in a small project, there can be multiple steps and if for some reason I’m having trouble starting I know the best thing to do is to start by making a check list. If I still feel overwhelmed, then I know step 1 is too big and it needs to be broken down further. I especially need a lot of detail in my checklist if I’m trying to finish a project at night when I don’t think at my best.

Checklists are great for helping you with a complex project even if you only do it once, but where they really come in handy is when you do the same project two or more times. Create your checklist on your computer, and when you are ready to do that project again pull up your file and you’ll be starting way ahead of where you would have otherwise. Make it a point to refine your checklist with each use and before long you’ll have a sleek, streamlined process that will make any project easier.

Do you use checklists to help you complete big projects? If no, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed by a big project?


  1. Mozette says:

    I have a project I’m working on at the moment. It’s my back garden… okay it’s not business. But it’s a project. I have cut it up into small ‘Phases’. So far I’ve completed Phase One. This is where I’ve purchased cheap plants, some lovely, large terra-cotta pots and 4 bags of potting mix. The plants were potted, some that existed in the garden were repotted and one was back-filled (my 10 year old Large Leaf Jade that was a housewarming gift when I moved in from a fellow writer).

    I’m currently saving up big-time for Phase Two. This will involve getting four more pots – a large round pot (for my Aloe Vera) and three medium-sized round pots terra-cotta pots, 5 bags of pottting mix and some cheap plants. I’m saving it all up in cash (as I don’t believe in credit cards) and keeping the cash away from my eyes so I don’t spend the Gardening Money in a small safe Mum gave me. Each time I get some money left over from my shopping trips for groceries, it goes towards this project.

    Phase Three or Four will include the purchase of new garden furniture… however that will be probably after my plants are finished up and once I have saved up a couple hundred dollars more.

    So, it’s phases I’m doing the garden in… it’s easier and I can take my time. But you’re right, it’s the details you gotta watch for. With me, the details is in the money and how I’m going to pay for it… and not relying on a credit card; because I have to remember, I still have to pay that off.

    1. Michele says:

      The garden sounds great Mozette! I think the strategy of breaking big jobs down into smaller chunks works as well for personal projects and saving money as it does for business projects. It’s what I do as well when I have a daunting personal project.

      1. Tuba says:

        I had a sort of mental check list for the fwnlooilg routines Daily morning routine: Curtains and cat = greet the cat, feed her, poopascoop her litter tray, let her out, and open all the curtains as I go through the house. Brexercise = have a bowl of cereal then go back upstairs for 15 minutes of warm up and abs exercises (this is too often abbreviated to just the breakfast part!). Ablutions = brush teeth (and shower, if necessary). Dress = put my clothes on and make/ dress the bed (having given it a chance to air)Daily getting in routine: Tidy = take the detachable basket off my bike and upstairs (this is my landing strip’) and put my bike out the back, have a whip round the house straightening up, do the washing up. Tea = sit down to the supper my husband will have made by this point.My second wind’ of activity every evening: Housework = go and do the housework relevant to that day e.g. laundry on a Monday. Daily review = gather and process the clutter from my landing strip’, my desk, my email inboxes and my computer desktop. Go through my general to do list for anything done, redundant, or doable. Budget = update my budget spreadsheet. Backup = run SyncToy to sync my Docs and Pics with my external drive and my Dropbox.Daily winding down routine: Curtains and cat = call the cat in for the night, feed her, close all the curtains. Packed lunch = make my lunch for school tomorrow. Ablutions = brush teeth (and shower, if necessary). Undress = pyjama-fy.Weekly housework routine:Monday = laundryWednesday = grocery shopFriday = housework (clean bath room, take out bins, sweep and mop / vacuum floors)Saturday = gardening (weed, mow the lawn, water everything)Bimonthly (as in every other month to coincide with school holidays and half terms) housework routine: Leanto = defrost freezer and clean out fridge and microwave (all of which are in the leanto!), sweep and dust leanto. Kitchen = clean splashback, window sills, insides of cupboards and drawers, cooker, kettle and toaster. Windows = clean windows! but I love the idea of an actual check list: it would make everything much smoother and automatic!

        1. Michele says:

          Checklists apply to personal life too! I use them there as well.

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