Monday, December 15, 2008

Break down complex tasks with milestones

Is there any task in your project that seems un-doable? A task that causes you repugnance and makes you pass over it all the time when considering your next action? As Merlin instructs, break it down.

Sometimes what we think to be a task is actually hiding a sequence of things that need to be done. Drilling down and revealing this sequence is an incentive to get going with the work.

With Teamness, this can be easily achieved with a milestone. Make a milestone out of that task and tie a list of sub-tasks to it. Even more, by using messages you can store more information and brainstorm with your colleagues.

Let's consider an example of a couple, John and Jenny, who decided to throw a Christmas party for their family. A part of this project is the task of preparing the food.

They made a task called "Think about the food" which got assigned to John, since he's a better cook, about 2 weeks ago when they announced they're going to host the party this year.

But the task didn't seem appealing to him. Only the thought that he has to think about preparing food for around 12 persons made John scan quickly over this entry in the tasks list.

Image by Aim and shoot!


The time was getting short, so John had to stop and evaluate what he needs to do. He realized that the action of thinking about the food, as was first noted in the task, is in fact a list of actions.

He made a milestone called "Planning the meal" and assigned it to both him and Jenny. The due date for the milestone: December 23. By then, they have to have everything sorted out.

"Make the list of guests", "List their culinary preferences", "Create a list of 6 dishes to prepare", "For each dish build a list of ingredients", "Make a cost estimate for the groceries", "Prepare a list of drinks", "Select wines according to the dishes" were all tasks for "Planning the meal". John distributed them to him and to Jenny and tied every one of them to the milestone he just created.

Image by abbyladybug


He spent some time on the web to find a few pages with hints for the above tasks and put them in separate messages: "Blog posts with Christmas dinner ideas", "Recipes for the Christmas", "Red wines" and "Christmas deserts". He also attached the messages to the milestone.

By creating a small mini-project out of the tedious task from the beginning, John made it easy to grasp the actions needed to complete this chore.

Creating a milestone offers a couple of productivity benefits:
  • tying a list of sub-tasks to the milestone you actually build a list of actionable things to do
  • using messages you can keep a lot of information and brainstorm on it with your colleagues
  • having a due date for the big task works as an incentive to do it

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