What is the biggest personal project you have ever undertaken? Getting married and organising the wedding? Building or renovating a house? Planning a world trip or moving to another country? Or investing a large sum of your money in a business?
All of these are pretty big, the stakes are high and there’s a lot that can go wrong… When you’re organising a wedding, there is a precise deadline and on D-day everything has to be ready. When you’re building or renovating a house, then the quality of the work and the coordination between all workers is paramount.
Planning a world trip or moving to another country? You need to know what to pack, have all visas, plane tickets, know where to stay etc. And before you’re investing a lot of money, I hope you’ve done your due diligence!
Anyway, whatever your project is, there is one golden rule: Keep your projects small.
Nine reasons why you need to keep your projects small
I already talked about keeping your projects small in earlier blog posts: ’7 key benefits for creating your project exit strategy before even starting a project’ and ‘The number one reason why your passion projects don’t get finished’.
On the other hand, I had a colleague who once said: “Put everything in phase 1 of the project, because phase 2 will never come.” Of course he was joking. It’s not smart to follow this advice and this is why:
- The objectives of small projects are much easier to achieve so you are able to finally finish projects that you’ve started.
- Small projects are easier to manage and you keep a good overview.
- It will be easier to stick to your project baselines (scope, budget and time line)
- Big projects create a big overhead cost in time and energy to manage them. Keeping projects small eliminates bureaucracy.
- Small projects give you the flexibility and agility you need as a multi-potentialite. You keep being flexible.
- You keep being motivated by having a series of small successes.
- You can gain experience by starting small and if your small approach works, it is always possible to expand later.
- Small projects mean less risks. Project risks are easier to detect and it is easier to eliminate or to mitigate those risks.
- Keeping your projects small avoids you feeling overwhelmed and getting stuck in analysis paralysis
How can you keep your projects small?
I know what you’re thinking now: “OK, all that is fine but if you’re organising a wedding or building a house, at the end of the day, the whole thing has to be there. Not just a part of it.” And that is right.
Let’s first see what a project is made of: The smallest unit is a task. One task has one specific result and can take from a few minutes to a few hours or a day. Achieving a group of related tasks will enable you to achieve a milestone.
From there definitions can vary. A sub project, project phase, a sprint or project iteration etc. are basically all a set of milestones or a part of a bigger project. And related projects can be grouped together in a programme.
Now, how to keep your projects small? If a project is too big, you break it down in smaller logical chunks, by subject or by phase. Then you break down each part into milestones.
To take the example of organising a wedding you can break it down to the following units: church, temple or legal wedding, invitations, lunch or dinner, after dinner party, etc. If you’re building a house, you would have the foundation, the construction, the roof, electricity and plumbing, plastering the walls etc.
How small is small enough? It depends on the project or programme. The whole organisation of the wedding or the building of the whole house is a programme. Then you can choose if the projects in your programme will be one or more levels down but a project can’t be smaller than one milestone.
What’s important is that it’s easily manageable and easy to finish, but that you keep having a good overview over the whole programme.
If you want to know more on how to exactly do this, it is part of the free course “Setup your passions portfolio in five easy steps”. All you need to do to get access is to leave your email address so we can send you the link.