Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Daily Action Pack

This post explains an incredibly useful technique for making steady and significant progress on any large project--it even works for completing multiple large projects at the same time.

The technique is called the Daily Action Pack. I'm not sure who invented the idea, but I first heard about it at Trent Hamm's blog The Simple Dollar.

Let me start by explaining two basic principles. First: every project, no matter how large or complex, can (and should) be broken down into small, discrete and quantifiable steps. Second: every project that you make progress on every single day will eventually be completed. And probably far sooner than you'd think.

The Daily Action Pack process is simple. Make up a daily list of small actions that you can take to make progress on each of your projects, and do those action steps each day before you do anything else.

That's it.

I'll share an example of how I used this process to generate content for Quick Writing Tips. Each year, over a single period of about eight to ten weeks, I write one full year's worth of posts for this site. To get started, I set a modest daily goal for generating ideas: generate a minimum of five new post ideas per day. It may not seem like much, but after three weeks, I was sitting on more than 100 post ideas.

Next, I wanted to turn those ideas into workable posts. And so for the next three weeks, I set a new Daily Action Pack goal: generate five reasonably complete first draft posts per day. The posts here at QWT are short, so it wasn't too aggressive a goal. And on the days where I was reasonably efficient, I was able to completely this goal within about two hours. After three weeks I generated about 105 first drafts. Not too shabby!

One more example: I'm working on another large project--an investing guidebook on how to make money with stock options. This project has been giving me a lot of problems, mainly because it's so huge that I'm often too intimidated to work on it. Thus I've set a Daily Action Pack goal of spending just thirty minutes a day editing and working on the manuscript. Again, thirty minutes may not seem like much, but this modest goal helps me avoid the urge to procrastinate on what would otherwise be an intimidatingly gigantic project. After all, who can't work for a lousy half hour on something?

Right now, my Daily Action Pack list includes three items: generating drafts for QWT, writing a minimum of thirty minutes a day for my food blog Casual Kitchen, and spending at least thirty minutes working on my stock options guidebook. Each goal is extremely modest, but I know that every single day I am taking concrete steps towards completing each of these projects.

Take small steps, every day. The rest will take care of itself.