Have you ever wanted to take on a large project but were hesitant to start? Perhaps you want to write a book, start a personal business, or make a lifestyle change. Whatever it is, completing large projects is immensely satisfying, and for many, a very difficult thing to do. Typically, one of the following happen:

Never start. The motivation required to get you started just isn’t there.

Start but quickly give up. After that first boost of motivation, you don’t have the remaining needed to follow up.

Start but lose focus. Your boost of motivation gets you started but you find yourself working but getting no closer to your goal.

How do you get past these? In short, good planning.

It doesn’t sound glamorous, but after attempting many projects and never reaching the finish line, anything that works feels magical. The trick is to be able to plan in a way that is flexible enough to accommodate any project you wish to pursue, yet robust enough to get you to the finish line.

This is the planning format I like to follow:

1) Define what you want to achieve.

2) Map an outline of what you want to include.

3) Break the outline into steps that you know you can accomplish in one day, and include extra time for delays.

You can adapt your plan once you begin working on your project, but you want to have a complete plan before starting so you have a good idea of the beginning-to-end effort and time that it will involve.

Let’s see this in the context of writing a book:

1) You know that you want to have a book on a certain topic.

2) You make a book outline of that topic.

3) You break down the topics further and further until you have sections that you know you can finish in a day.

4) You know that you can reliably write 2000 words in two days. One day to research and write, and another day to refine and edit. Therefore you build a weekly schedule with an assumption of 4000 words a week. That’s Monday and Wednesday for writing, Tuesday and Thursday for editing, and Friday as extra time.

With this schedule, you know you want to write 32,000 words in two months. That is easily a small book. Plus it includes 8 Fridays for unexpected delays, making you more likely to realistically hit your target on time.

Using the above plan, you avoided the common problems that hinder completing a large task, and have a good sense of the time and effort required. Ask yourself what project have you been putting off? Try writing a plan for it. Then you will know if you have the time, energy, and desire to begin. And if you don’t, at the very least you will have the peace of mind of knowing that now is not the right time but that you can always come back to it later at a realistic date.