How to Get Things Done, Part 3 – Map Your Road


How to Get Things Done

In the introductory part of this series, I talked about the importance of building a roadmap.

“Making a roadmap” is simply another way of referring to the planning process. When you drill any planning process down to its core, there are three components:

The starting point (where you are now)

The ending point (where you want to be)

The road (what you have to do to get there)

In part 2 we talked about setting goals. Those goals are the framework for your roadmap.

How to Build an Useful Roadmap

Define Your Process

Process is an essential component of any plan.

If your plan for the school term is to have completely mastered the Bruch first violin concerto and successfully perform it for an audience, it isn’t enough to simply set that goal. You need a strategy that covers the entire time period leading up to the performance. You need a plan that breaks down the music and the learning process into smaller sections that you can tackle within shorter time-frames, so that your incremental successes are achieved on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. These smaller successes are what add up to attaining your goal for the longer term.

Once you have your roadmap set, you must move the other way–going from the wide view to a narrower one, as you focus on HOW to achieve your short-term goals, before expanding further into the future. Don’t get too preoccupied with your long-term “hopes.” (They probably resemble hopes more than anything else at this point.) If you do let this type of preoccupation take hold, you run the self-defeating risk of taking your attention off of what needs to be done NOW.

Your process should function as a systematic framework that you can apply across different endeavors of a similar nature. The content of your process will change, but the process itself remains intact. In other words, the specific activities you do will differ, but the way you approach those activities should be the same.

The most successful performers in any industry are those who have developed systems that they can apply in such a fashion. If you build your process the right way from the beginning, you will save yourself a lot of time and needless effort in the future.

Be Able to See It… Literally

Commit the process to a medium (print or digital) so that you can actually SEE it. Such a visual aid is a powerful reminder and motivator.

Let’s return to the example of the student who wants to master the Bruch first violin concerto within a school term. To break down this long-term goal into smaller goals spanning a three-month period, we would draw the following roadmap:

  • Month 1 Focus – Initial learning phase, gain familiarity and understanding of the music
  • Month 1 Goal – Play through the music at tempo
    • Week 1 Focus –  Play through all three movements, understand the structure and flow of the work
    • Week 2 Focus – Work with tempos/practice slow, spot practice/refine difficult areas
    • Week 3 Focus – Start to get up to tempo, practice difficult areas in context
    • Week 4 Focus – Practice all movements at tempo, spot and slow practice where needed
  • Month 2 Focus – Develop performance level skill with music
  • Month 2 Goal – Have all three movements up to tempo and memorized; give a rough performance of it
    • Week 1 Focus – Trial memory play-through, use music when necessary
    • Week 2 Focus – Memorize by section, be able to start at checkpoints throughout the work
    • Week 3 Focus – Work on difficult areas with and without the music, be able to get to the point of recalling and practicing those difficult areas without first looking at the music
    • Week 4 Focus – Practice complete run-throughs at tempo.
  • Month 3 Focus – Attain mastery level of music
  • Month 3 Goal – Successful performance of the entire work
    • Week 1 Focus – Targeted spot practice with music
    • Week 2 Focus – Practice performances for peers (memorized)
    • Week 3 Focus – Final refining of specific spots with and without music, practice performances
    • Final week – PERFORM

For each week in this example, you would also want to build out a process for each day you practice (whether it is every day, every other day, etc.) as well as things you can do when you are not physically practicing, e.g., score study, mental practice, listening to different recordings, etc.

Use Common Sense

A roadmap should suit the task for which it is designed.

If your goal today is to play a piece from memory during your hour-long practice session, don’t spend 30 minutes building a strategy for playing through your piece. Conversely, if your goal is to put together a benefit concert in your local community, your roadmap should definitely involve more than an outline in your head.

One of the most powerful things about a roadmap as a framework, is that it is scalable, meaning it can fit a range of situations. But it’s up to you to employ the common sense that determines what the appropriate scale should be.

We are finally on the road to getting things done. The next couple of installments in this series will address the following challenge: making sure we stay on the road.

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4 Responses to How to Get Things Done, Part 3 – Map Your Road

  1. Ari October 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    You have a good, clear process that can help many people and be applied beyond just music. Great article.

    • Colin Cronin October 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      Thanks Ari,

      Yes I think it is important for the framework of a process to be widely applicable to a variety of areas. Top performers such as Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes advocate such approaches. Certainly every industry and project will have its own unique and specific aspects, but the more consistent you can make your approach to these challenges, the more productive you can be.


  2. Jill May October 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Thanks Colin,

    This is a fantastic article. I use a very similar process when working with and coaching my own team. You are right that the key is having a duplicable process. Simple (not simplistic) is always the best way to go.


    • Colin Cronin October 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm #


      Great to hear from you. Glad to hear that you liked the article and that you are using a similar approach. I’ve found that this is especially important when you are coaching teams of people because you not only are helping individuals build plans for their own goals, you are casting a broader strategic vision for an organization as a whole.

      Hope everything is well,

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