Written by Kristin Harrington

I recently received a big project at work, and admittedly, it scared me. Although it’s not my first big project, nor will it be my last, there’s something incredibly daunting about facing something so big that you’re not even sure where to start. It can feel particularly overwhelming and almost paralyzing at times.

The fear of failure sets in even after you’ve figured out where to start. What if I don’t do a good job? What if they don’t like it? What if I can’t meet the goal? Self-doubt grows bigger, making it harder to figure out the way forward.

If you’re anything like me, this experience feels all too familiar. So, how do we proceed when we face a big project or need to help team members who struggle to move forward in the face of challenge?

Here’s what I’ve learned about tackling the challenging tasks.

Start small, but start somewhere. The biggest takeaway is just to start. Randomly start anywhere – the beginning, the end; it doesn’t matter. If you get traction, you can usually use it to propel you forward. Often, the hardest part is just getting started. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be something.

Tackle the worst first.
When you’re facing a daunting task, it becomes easy to set it aside. Why not tackle the hundred little action items on your to-do list instead? You’ll feel like you’ve made progress and can go home from work with some wins to celebrate. Or can you? When you’re facing a big task, tackle the worst first. Let it be the first thing you do in the day, not the last because odds are you won’t get to it if you save it for later.

Get disciplined. Being disciplined has saved me more time than anything else in my professional life. There is a story of two explorers, one of whom marched his team a disciplined 20 miles a day regardless of conditions. The other marched his team at varying lengths based on weather or other factors. Guess who got to the end first? You got it, the team with discipline. When facing a daunting task, being disciplined in your approach is the difference-maker. Give effort to the task daily, no matter what, and you’ll be surprised how far you can get.

Facing a big project can be overwhelming, but it’s a common workplace experience. Starting small, tackling the worst first, and being disciplined are crucial steps for success. Remember, it’s OK to feel scared or unsure, but taking the first step is often the hardest—and most important—one.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through its innovative coaching programs.