Nine Effective Tips To Keep A Long-Term Project On Track

When you’re working to complete a project that will span a long period of time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Without proper preparation and oversight, a long-term project runs the risk of getting derailed along the way as more immediate and pressing concerns pop up.

Anyone leading this type of project should take the necessary steps to make sure every piece of the endeavor stays on track and progresses smoothly. To help you do this, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members discuss how to ensure long-term projects reach successful conclusions.

1. Break It Down

The key to achieving long-term goals is through backward design. Start with the end goal and break it down into smaller and smaller sub-goals. If the project spans a year, then it needs to have a six-month goal as well, then a three-month goal, then monthly goals, then weekly goals, then daily goals. When there is a goal that is months out, it is easy to put it off until the timeline to achieve it is unrealistic. This in turn creates stress, rushed work and mistakes that potentially derail the whole thing. – Liam Leonard, DML Capital

2. Reward Milestone Achievements

If you want to successfully plan a project that will take more than one year, make sure you create rewards for different milestones that span across the project. This will help to keep everyone on track and motivated as they progress toward the final goal. You can also add bonuses when the team completes a milestone ahead of schedule or if certain goals get met without any hitches. Using a reward-based system is a great way to motivate people and keep them focused on the bigger picture. As a result, you increase the chances that your project is successful. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. Be Proactive

Start with a “premortem.” We are very quick to do postmortems on projects, and it should be done, but by starting with a premortem, we look at ways the project might go wrong and identify ahead of time ways of avoiding them. This needs to be done with the client as they will likely bring up a lot of different things that could potentially cause a problem. Over the years of doing this, we’ve learned of certain personalities that we need to accommodate or processes that are unique to their organization that are good to understand ahead of time. Stuff as simple as reviewing team members’ vacation schedules in advance can help avoid issues when they come. A premortem can be a great and even fun way to plan for the worst so you can avoid it. – Andrew Howlett, Struck

4. Schedule Timely Check-Ins

Outline the goals and objectives of the project and get it off the ground. Check in at 30, 60 and 90 days. Those numbers may differ depending upon the length of the project. Don’t check in too much because that can come off as micromanaging. Take a brief look at the project and its success at any point in time, offer up honest and objective feedback and then ask for updates on progress consistent with what you said needed to be altered. It’s a fine line, but you can make it happen if you try. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

5. Keep Your Team Small

To ensure that longer projects stay on track, I find it’s a lot easier to keep the smaller teams. With small teams, there’s less that can go wrong in terms of communication and getting feedback. With super large teams, a lot can get lost in translation. If it’s possible to use a smaller team for a project, it might be best to choose this option and eliminate possible opportunities for error. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

6. Set And Stick To Deadlines

Long-term projects run the risk of being pushed into the background as new and urgent issues or opportunities arise that take priority. When a project goes off the rails, it is usually because we have taken our eyes off the ball and have missed the warning signs that various targets are not being met. This is why, as with any project, you have to have a planned timeline with goals and deadlines in order to keep it moving along. Respecting those deadlines and ensuring that everyone remains accountable for hitting targets is key to keeping a project running long term. Regularly scheduled catch-ups also help keep the project fresh in people’s minds and prevent it from being deprioritized. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS

7. Remember Your ‘Why’

Frequently remind yourself why you started the project in the first place. Tapping into that original motivation will not only energize you to keep going, but it will also make you feel encouraged by how far you’ve already come. It is so easy to get caught up in new challenges each week that you forget to look at the bigger picture. The beauty of extended projects is that the payoff usually makes it all worth it, but only if you remain focused and committed. Also, remember to keep the whole team motivated. Maintaining your own perspective as team leader is important, but you can’t leave anyone behind either. A long-term project requires the attention and efforts of everyone. Have frequent check-ins to see how people are feeling about the direction of the project. – Nick Venditti, StitchGolf

8. Keep Track Of Metrics

If it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved. Sometimes pivots need to be made with long-term projects, and the best way to determine that is through metrics. This should be supplemented with the main goal of the project clearly laid out so the team knows what the North Star is. When our company was five years old, our goal was to serve 1,000 clients by our 10-year mark. To do this, we started to measure the number of clients that hired us per month and then per year. We tweaked it so that we measured what our busiest days of the week were for leads and then pivoted it more to identify our success rate. The long-term project started to get bigger than we imagined, so we went back to basics to remind ourselves what the end goal was and how to get there. Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office

9. Document Your Plan

Documenting your course of action is a great way to keep your project on track, even if something goes wrong. When something inevitably doesn’t go according to plan, people tend to panic. In my experience, having documentation that clearly explains the next steps can help teams recover from setbacks and complete the task at hand. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

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