I recently had to deal with a couple big personal project, that each took the equivalent of about 1month full time job. For decades people around me have been saying one day we should do that, but the day just never came. The projects were just too big for anyone to know to deal with it.

And then the circumstances happened that we had to do it pretty much NOW, but no-one had any idea how to do. So I set myself to it. I don’t think I had a clearer vision on how to do the project or how to plan it. And I wasn’t even sure it was going to be possible, since everyone has been putting it off for so many years. I know only two things: I had a rough idea of what the result should look like, and I knew what was one of the things I could do to start and get closer to that final idea.

Getting started

So I started doing that first step. And here is what I think is the key part. I had no idea what was going to be step 2 until I finished step one. It was too big, too complex for me to be able to plan everything in advance. I trusted the process. I knew that for each step I would take I would get a tiny bit closer to my final goal. And so each time I finished a step, I analyzed the new situation and figured out what is the next step I can do, and then set myself to do that.

There are some times when it’s a bit more complicated, but it always returns to the same thing of looking for what is the next step I can do right now. For example, you want to do task A, but there is B in the way, and you’ll only be able to deal with task B once task C is done. So what is the first step you can do? That’s right, you start with task C, then it will allow you to do task B, and finally you’ll be able to do task A that you originally wanted to do. It took a little detour, but eventually you got there and you made progress along the way.

Solving the puzzle

There are also many time you start doing another task D, but halfway through you realize its not going to work, or that you need to do it differently. That’s fine, that’s part of the process. It’s a sign that you have made progress, and with this extra progress you now have the visibility on how the next step will come put itself into this puzzle.

Actually, the analogy to a jigsaw puzzle is pretty good. At the beginning you have an idea of what the final result is supposed to look like. But as you start there are many pieces which you have no idea where they are supposed to go. And then you find a piece that is easy to locate and place. Once you have that first piece, you can start adding one piece at a time to that initial piece to start building towards the final result.

Completing the goal

So to answer the original question, the way to plan for a big project is to improvise. Unless you have already done a similar kind of project and already know how things are going to turn out, give yourself some slack, and allow yourself to have some uncertainty. The key is to keep going, keep progressing until you reach a satisfying result to your project. That’s what I call DUMB goals, Destination with Unknowns to create Motion and Build.

Keep in mind that the final result, your destination, may change along the way. As you move forwards, you learn more stuff, discover more intricacies of the project, or come up with new solutions you haven’t though of at the beginning, you should make your idea of your final result evolve according to it. There is no need to remain stuck on an old idea now that you and your project have evolved.



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