Small tasks, big goals

How do you achieve your goals? When you think about a big goal that you want to achieve, it can be overwhelming and often you don’t know where to begin. Back in 2005 when I was slaving away as a surgery intern, I realized that medicine wasn’t the right fit for me and I decided to switch careers into the burgeoning world of online video.

Google had recently gone IPO, MySpace was blowing up (in the good way), and podcasting had recently been invented and was rising to prominence. Everything indicated that the advertising base, audience scale, and content syndication tools were in place for online video to finally become a major industry. I wanted to be a part of it.

Needless to say, I had zero connections, little experience producing videos, and very little technical knowledge. The goal seemed overwhelming and the number of steps I needed to take to achieve my goal seemed to expand to infinity.

How did I do it? By breaking my big goal into a collection of short-term milestones and small, achievable tasks.

On the one hand, it’s important to have a big goal. it keeps you motivated when you’re in the bottom of the well and provides a target that you and everyone else in the company can shoot for. But, you can’t tackle a big goal each day. It’s not tangible. You need to create small, actionable tasks that you can work on each day to achieve your goal. (PA1)

Here’s an example of a big goal that I’m tackling right now:

Write a consistently high quality, well respected, and widely read blog.

Needless to say, this is very hard, but hopefully achievable :)

The biggest problem is that I’m a HUGE procrastinator when it comes to writing. Luckily, I’ve found that when I have a deadline that I need to meet, I’m forced to cut through the blockage and produce something on schedule. When I was writing lonelygirl15, I was forced to produce multiple scripts a week and it did wonders for combatting my natural tendency towards procrastination (it also led to a lot of episodes where the kids were on the run from the Order, but that’s another story).

So, right now my “easy task” that contributes to my big goal is to write one new blog post each week. It’s a task in my Remember the Milk, and it’s something I can focus on each week and work towards achieving.

This is just a small example, but there are a ton of resources out there that can help you figure out how to break your goals down into manageable tasks, including the fantastic book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande that Jack Dorsey apparently gives out to every new employee.

Got any tips on how to achieve big goals? Let me know on Twitter @mbeckett

Philosophical Asides (PA’s)

My attempt to avoid run-on-paragraphs will be to throw any random musings that come up in the course of writing the post into a “Philosophical Asides” section at the end. Read at your own risk.

PA1: In fact, one could argue that the entire process of managing a team and growing a business is taking a series of goals and properly dividing them up into milestones and achievable tasks, delegating responsibility, and communicating and monitoring the company’s progress to make sure everyone is on track.


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