Is your big project overwhelming you? Learn to Scope, Block & Tackle

two american football players tackle in silhouette shadow on white background

The best part of being a creative person is the rush of a new vision.

You suddenly know the book you want to write.

You decide that you are going to create a big, new program that will change the lives of everyone who participates in it.

You are going to start a revolution and change the world.

You are going to build marketing systems and processes that will deliver you sustainable, consistent revenue.

After furiously filling a yellow pad with 20 pages of notes, or flip charting or creating 30 PowerPoint slides, you go to sleep with visions of massive success in your head.

Then you wake up the next day, with a creative hangover, stare at your blank computer screen and suddenly second-guess your great idea.

Scope, Block & Tackle

What foils the most compelling projects is not lack of vision, but rather lack of chunking.

Projects are just too big to wrap your head around, so they stay big visions until they dry up and drift away.

Or you attempt to attack them multiple times during the year, but end up flailing around without true progress, then beat yourself up because you haven’t completed them.

(And in the spirit of truth, some of you don’t actually want to do the project, because you are still infatuated with the idea of what it would be, and don’t want to ruin your fantasy. Kind of like I was with my 7th grade crush Mike Keller.)

If you truly want to get your project done, it is time to Scope, Block & Tackle.

First: Scope

Before you start breaking your project into chunks, you want to get clear about 3 things:

  • Why you are doing it (right a wrong, grow revenue, change the world)
  • How it will make your life easier/different/better/more awesome when it is done
  • Why now, and why you?

With this framework in mind, you will have the clarity and motivation to do the hard work.

Second: Block

Every project should be broken down into major phases.

For example, The Project Management Institute (PMI) breaks down their methodology into five phases:

  1. Conception and Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Performance Monitoring
  5. Project Close

In the field of Training & Development, the instructional design system, originated at Florida State University in 1975, is called ADDIE. The five phases of any training intervention are:

  1. Analysis
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Implementation
  5. Evaluation

In the entrepreneurial world, we tend to not use so much project structure, but you still can break down your big idea into distinct chunks. So if you are excited to write a traditionally published book, your phases could be:

Writing a Book:

  1. Conceptualize big idea
  2. Write proposal
  3. Shop and sell to agent and/or publisher
  4. Write book
  5. Launch book

(This reminds me of the advice I got from Adrian Zackheim, the head of my publisher Penguin/Portfolio, when I first got my book deal for Escape from Cubicle Nation. I had a phone call with him, and was thinking about 12,000 things related to writing and launching the book. Nervously, I said “Adrian, you have been involved in so many successful books throughout your career (he was the editor of Jim Collin’s Good to Great). What is your advice for a first-time author?” After a pause, he said “Pam — write the goddamned book.”

I have never forgotten that sage advice.)

3rd: Tackle

Once you have broken your big project into distinct phases, now you want to zero in on the first phase.

Each phase will have a natural set of steps that you will see clearly once your head is not cluttered with things that come in later phases.

So in the example of writing a book, before wondering how you are going to choose between appearing on The Today Show or Good Morning America, and whether to have a Pinterest board or spend most of your time on SnapChat promoting the book, I suggest you conceptualize the big idea.

By chunking your phase down into doable bits, you will soon find that you get increased momentum, satisfaction, and positive traction.

Dreaming big is fun and intoxicating.

Even better is your dream realized.

Reader Interactions


  1. Fatimah Williams Castro, PhD says

    Thanks for this post. I am often hired to manage other people’s projects but when it comes to my own creative work, I don’t do as well. This post is a reminder to break it down then get to work. I’ll also be enlisting the support of my community to help with the stages if the project so I don’t have to fuel myself to get through the goal. Work is better with friends 🙂

  2. Ian Boreham says

    Great post. Absolutely agree that it translates from the creative to the practical application of organised planning. Having a methodology to follow as you point out is a great way to build in an element of structure. even without a formal structure, the concept of chunking down is still key to getting stuff done and staying motivated.

  3. Alexej says

    Thank you for this post. Yes, break it into small pieces and kick them one after another. And if you have translated your idea into a to do list and don’t know where to start – again: do just some task to create momentum. After that you will find priorities and focus on the next critical steps

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