So your team has a set of goals to achieve for the year. That’s great! Maybe you’ve already broken down your goals into quarterly goals. But what if your goals are so big your team doesn't even know how to start working on them?

It’s great to have big goals to aim for, both within your team and in your personal life. But if the distance between where you stand right now and your goals is too great, you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Ambitious goals are inspiring and motivating at first, but they can become intimidating if they’re not accompanied by actionable steps on how to reach them. That’s why you need to break down goals into actionable tasks.

Establish your goals

Of course, before you break down your goals into tasks, you need to have goals. Not just goals, but well-established goals.

It’s important for the goals you set to be as specific as they can be. Let’s take the example of running a marathon, since we’ve already talked about how much resembles running a startup.

If your goal is to run a marathon, what does this mean exactly? Can you walk part of the marathon? Do you want to finish within a specific time?

A scientific review of behaviour change in diet and exercise shows that specific, challenging goals lead to better performance than vague goals. It’s very likely that this also applies to areas outside of nutrition and physical exercise.

Get crystal clear about what you’re aiming for, and write it down.

Create a map of milestones 

Goals can usually be divided into milestones. If you’re running a marathon, your milestones might be:

  • jog for thirty minutes
  • run 5k in thirty minutes
  • run total weekly distance of 15k
  • run total weekly distance of 30k

… and so on. Milestones are still big steps, but they help you think of your goals in terms of what you need to achieve them. You can begin to grasp what is necessary to achieve each milestone, and what you need to get there.

Come up with a task list

Now that you have a map of your milestones that you want to achieve, you can come up with a task list. You don’t need to map out your whole goal. Start with the first milestone and go from there.

If your first milestone is to jog for thirty minutes, here’s where you might start:

  • buy running shoes
  • start nutrition plan
  • jog three times a week

Make your tasks actionable by always starting them with a verb, and make sure you really are clear about what each task entails. If any task is still vague, then break them down even further.

What kind of support do you need to achieve each step? 

Before you begin working away on each task, try to anticipate if there is anything you need in order to complete each step.

In our marathon example, you might need to set up a meeting with a nutritionist, or you might want to do some research on what are the best running shoes for you.

Figuring out what is needed to complete each task is even more important within the workplace, as team members often depend on one another. If one team member does not have the tools to complete one task, the whole team will be set back. 

Think of all the practical things, whether it’s knowledge or professional help, that you will need to complete each task. Start making plans in advance to make sure that what you need will be there when you need it. 

Create a timeline for your tasks 

Once you have your task list, it’s time to create a timeline for your tasks.

The timeline will allow you to see what needs to happen for a task to begin, and what tasks can happen alongside each other. But this does not refer to multitasking! For example, beginning your nutrition plan and jogging three times a week can happen alongside each other, but you need to buy your running shoes first.

Creating a timeline for your tasks will help you see your goals in a more achievable light, and will also help you be more efficient about how you spend your time.

Work toward completing each task 

You have your goals, you have your milestones, and you have your tasks. Now it’s time to start working away on each task.

The big advantage of breaking down your goals into tasks is that it creates small, actionable and achievable steps for you to take. There is no doubt that you can complete each individual task, which gives you the confidence to move swiftly toward your goal.

But imagine standing at the foot of a mountain and looking up at the distant summit. If you look up at the summit, you might feel overwhelmed by how much you need to hike. You might even start doubting if you’re able to climb the mountain at all. Now, if you look at the first camp, a few hundred meters above where you’re standing, getting there will probably feel a lot more achievable than climbing the mountain.

When you break down goals into tasks, you break down what might seem impossible into a sequence of doable steps.

You can sometimes take a peak at the summit, imagine yourself there, remind yourself why you want to get there in the first place. But keep your eyes firmly on the next camp and walk steadily toward it, knowing that’s what will get you to the top of the mountain.

How are you breaking down your goals into achievable steps? Share your tips with us and our readers in the comments below!