As you steadily increase your level of productivity and success, you will inevitably come to the point where you’ll be trying to do something new. This could be a task or a project that’s entirely new in the world, or simply something you’re doing for the first time in your work and your life. You could be trying to do this because you’ve been asked, or because you’re driven to do this by your own internal motivation and guidance.
Whatever the specific circumstances, you may be tempted to quickly take what seems like a sensible first step, and after that to make the best progress you can. But since you’ve never attempted this task or project before, shooting from the hip in that way can easily lead to wasted time, effort, and resources.
It’s usually smarter and more effective to try to proceed more deliberately – even when you’re striving to create something entirely new.
To help you produce and succeed on such a “new to you” task or project, here’s a roadmap that can guide your efforts:
Set the Right Direction
Your first step toward completing a task or a project is often crucial in improving or degrading your eventual results. That’s one reason it’s important to make sure you’re heading in the best possible direction.
To set the best direction for your first step, implement as many of the following ideas as you can:
- Survey the situation and look for examples of successful tasks or projects that contain similarities with what you are trying to accomplish.
- Identify people and/or institutions with expertise in the relevant skills and disciplines, and learn what you can from them.
- Map out several different plans of action, and evaluate the payoffs and problems that each one potentially entails.
Line Up Needed Resources
Once you have mapped out a solid plan of action and so have identified a fruitful first step, start calculating the resources you’ll need.
Whether you decide to line up needed resources just for the first step, or for the whole plan, depends on many factors, including:
- How long would acquiring every bit of needed resources delay getting started on the first step of the plan?
- Is the plan so fully worked out that you actually know all the resources you’ll need to complete it, or are later steps and needed resources currently uncertain, dependent on results you achieve with some of the earlier steps?
- Are all the needed resources currently available, or will they become available only later on?
- Is it possible to do both: keep the plan moving forward at the same time as you also acquire additional resources?
Establish and Aim for Interim Milestones
When you’re trying to complete a task or project you’ve never done before, there’s always a significant chance of a misstep part-way through. Because you lack experience with this task or project, you might not notice a misstep until you’ve wasted significant time, effort, and resources on it.
This is why it’s helpful to establish milestones you can aim for as you work your plan. These milestones should be:
- Along a clear path from the first step to completion of the task or project.
- Close enough together that they provide clear directions to guide your efforts at each stage of the task or project.
- Tangible or objective enough that anyone can recognize when you’ve reached them.
The result of this three-step approach will be to help you navigate the uncharted waters of the task or project that’s new to you (and perhaps to the world), and to prevent you from drifting away from the most straight-line efforts toward completion of it.
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