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Microproductivity: How to Break Big Tasks Into Smaller Pieces in Project Management

breaking big tasks into smaller pieces in project management

We’ve all been there before. You’re starting a huge project, whether it’s a work assignment or a home improvement project, and you have no idea where to begin. It can be overwhelming to try to tackle a big task all at once.

That’s when applying the concepts of microproductivity becomes helpful.

If you’re looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, breaking big tasks into smaller pieces can help you find the light.

What is Microproductivity?

Okay, so we didn’t just make up the word “ microproductivity.” But it is kind of a buzzword for something that many of us already do. Microproducivity refers to the process of breaking big projects into smaller, more defined, and more manageable pieces to get the job done.

By breaking your tasks into smaller, defined pieces, you can clearly see each step of the process and reduce the amount of time you spend multitasking. Multitasking reduces productivity by 40% anyway, so doubling up on work or knocking multiple things out at once isn’t as productive as you might think. 

So what do we mean by breaking a task down? 

Think back to your high school days when your Language Arts teacher made you plan and outline your entire essay before you could start writing it. As much as we might hate to admit it, our teachers were right: it’s much easier to write a paper with a solid idea of talking points for each section.

Applying the same concepts to your projects helps you achieve the same goal: a step-by-step overview of your task. 

Four Steps to Put Microproductivity into Practice

So, to stay on task and feel good about completing your projects, you need a plan. Here are four steps to applying the concepts of microproductivity to your work.

1. Make a list 

Before you start your project, make a list of everything that needs to be done. This will help you get a better sense of its overall scope and see it as a series of individual steps rather than one huge, undefined mass.

Pro tip: If you’re a fan of sticky notes, write each step of the task on separate notes. That way, you can visually add to and rearrange your list if you think of other necessary tasks. You can also use a productivity tool like Freedcamp to organize your tasks.

2. Prioritize the items on your list 

After writing your list, you’ll likely find some of the tasks are not as important as others. Take some time to prioritize the items on your list. This will help you focus your energies on the most important tasks first. Plus, it’ll give you time at the end of your project to focus on the less important tasks, without scrambling to complete the priority items.

Pro tip: Consider which tasks are less important and set those to the side. Focus only on the priority tasks first.

3. Break each task down into smaller steps

Once you’ve prioritized your list of everything that needs to be done, start breaking each task down into smaller steps that you can complete one at a time. Write out everything, even the “duh” tasks that seem like a no-brainer.

Speaking from personal experience, don’t skip this step! Or, you’ll be like me, in the middle of a recipe, only to realize you didn’t peel, chop, and boil the potatoes before making an easy “15-minute” vegetable soup. 

Pro tip: Make a detailed list of each step, even if you think it’s unnecessary. That way, you don’t run into surprises later.

4. Put a timeline on each task

If you’re on a deadline to complete a big project, it’s helpful to put a timeline on each task. For example, if I’m writing a blog post and it’s due in two days, I might estimate I need about 30 minutes to create an outline, about an hour and a half to conduct research and a few hours to step away from the post to clear my mind to edit it properly.

Putting a timeline on each task can help you further break each task down into smaller, more manageable chunks by forcing you to think about how much time each step will take.

Pro tip: If you’re collaborating with a team to complete a project, you might find it interesting to know that 80% of employees say a positive digital experience is key to success. Using productivity software like Freedcamp can give your team the positive experience they need to divide and conquer a project’s tasks so that they can work together to complete their assignments.

Why Microproductivity Works

We talked with Margo Crawford, the Productivity Coach at Wave Productivity, to better understand why microproductivity works.

Margo says people often write their to-do lists incorrectly. She says, “What they have on their to-do list is actually the outcome that they want to create, not necessarily the next step. And because it is an outcome or it’s the name of the project, it can be very overwhelming because people don’t have the clarity or the next steps to take.”

So, instead of writing “Clean Basement” on your to-do list, consider the steps you need to take to actually clean the basement. For example, “Throw out trash from bins.” Or “Organize three boxes of DVDs.”

When you write out every step of the task, you’re better able to see the bigger picture and estimate how much time you’ll need for your project. Listing each step of the project, no matter how big or small, is what Margo likes to call “snowballing.”

Margo says, “So that means that like, you have gotten to the next step. And then, you know all the steps you need to take after that. But you need that one little piece to jumpstart you. And that one little piece has to be something really small that you feel good about that isn’t going to overwhelm you.”

Reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed is critical to being productive and finishing your tasks. When you’re overwhelmed, there’s a great chance you’re seeking “voluntary interruptions” (like checking your Facebook notifications). And when you allow yourself to be interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track.

Be Productive: Break it Down

Breaking big tasks into smaller pieces can seem like a daunting task in and of itself, but it’s definitely doable with a little bit of planning and effort. By applying the principles of microproductivity, you’ll be able to manage your time better, stay focused on what’s important, and make progress toward completing even the most daunting projects.

Looking for a productivity tool to help you and your team stay on task and knock out projects like a boss? Check out Freedcamp. Freedcamp helps streamline your projects, processes, and workflows, so you can feel confident about completing your projects on time, every time.