How to Break Down Your Goals

Whatever project you have in mind, whether it’s writing a book, planning a big dinner party or starting your own side hustle, these big ideas can quickly become overwhelming. Thinking about all the work you have left to do can make you feel like giving up before you even begin..

To help me feel less overwhelmed I  use a little trick called “backtiming.” This is a concept I picked up from my day job as a TV news producer. If your show finishes at 11pm, that’s it, you can’t over run. So to make the news work on time we start with the end in mind and work backwards. This guarantees that you’ll finish on time.

This method has multiple real world applications, if you’re a whiz in the kitchen you probably use this method to ensure all the various elements of your dish will finish at the same time. You can also use backtiming to plan out your future goals. For more on how backtiming works check this out.

It also  helps to break up your goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. You can focus on one of these lists at a time to prevent yourself from getting distracted by all the other pieces of the puzzle.

By combining backtiming and this breaking down method you can create a foolproof plan to work your way through any big task. I’m going to walk you through 3 examples. However you can really apply these principles to any big project or tasks:  

1. Dinner Party – So you have four weeks until your party and it feels like you have so much to do. A good place to start is by bringing up your calendar, this way you can make a note of all the milestones as you go. So let’s imagine the morning of the big day, what are you going to be doing – cooking yourself or have you arranged caterers? This will take you down different routes, but the end idea is the same, you need to make time  for either buying the food or booking the caterers in your calendar. You might want to allow yourself some time to do research on different caterers or maybe you will need to pick up ingredients from different stores or allow for foods with short expiration dates. It’s good to imagine all the possible options like a flowchart.

Next think about the party itself. What are you going to wear? Do you need to plan to go shopping a couple of weeks before? Who are you inviting? I like to send out invitations at least a month in advance otherwise I find most people are too busy.

Some of the lists you’ll need include:

  • Guest list
  • Shopping list (food & drink)
  • Music playlist
  • Inventory list (dishware/glasses required)
  • Decorations list (flowers, etc)

2. Writing a Book – This one is a little more complex than a dinner party, and this is where breaking your lists down can really come in handy. Let’s start with the finished book and work our way back from there. What is your book going to be about?  How much research will you need to do on this topic? What publishers are you planning to approach? For this portion I would make a checklist of all the things you need to consider.

From your research you can start to picture what you want each chapter to focus on and how many chapters there will be. Each chapter then becomes it’s own list. When I was writing my book Listful Thinking I liked to used index cards to breakdown what I wanted to include in each chapter. They also tend to come in different colors so you can can pick a color for each chapter to save on confusion. 

Some of the lists you’ll need for writing your book:

  • Research lists
  • Chapter breakdowns
  • Publishers to approach
  • Potential endorsers

3. Starting a Side Hustlethese days it seems like everyone has some sort of side hustle, so why haven’t you joined in on the game? Creating your own business is a lot like that saying, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.” Similarly you need to be really committed to your idea before you start. That doesn’t mean you have to have a fully fleshed out idea, but it’s good if you’re passionate about it. I love lists obviously, so List Producer made sense for me as a blog idea and then turned into my book, for example.

It’s best to play to your strengths or as I said to something you enjoy. If you like animals you could take up dog walking or if you speak a second language you could tutor. It doesn’t have to be some elaborate business plan.

Once you’ve decided what your side hustle will be you need to have two main lists: a research list and a marketing list. For research you’ll want to look at similar businesses. What are they doing right? What could they improve upon? You should also do some research into the kind of people you will be aiming your services at? Is there a niche you can fill?

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be something costly or hugely involved. It can be something as simple as getting your friends to share your business page on Facebook, or going to local events to promote yourself. Once you’ve established yourself you can think about branching out into media and getting your name out there.

See how running through every aspect of an event or goal will help you to plan it out and piece it together? Looking at the big picture is essential before digging into the smaller pieces. It makes it much more manageable and doable. Also you can use your lists to outsource and get some help as well.

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