Breaking things down

Most things in life can be broken down into smaller things. Often, it is only then that they become achievable.

Published on 
3 min, 492 words

Categories: life

A task can often look too big to tackle. It can become very daunting even in deciding where to start.

It can also apply to skills you want to learn. From Skip the Line by James Altucher:

Any skill worth getting good at is really a collection of microskills. And to get truly great at something, you need to get good at those microskills.

The benefit of breaking things down into smaller parts can be seen in lots of different areas.

Software development is all about breaking things down into chunks, whether they are classes, methods, functions, modules, layers; lots of different bits with different levels of abstraction. If the chunks are broken down and identified properly this can allow work on multiple parts at the same time by different people or even different teams. It can allow the development of something that originally seemed impossible.

The project I have been on for about six years started as an idea. We came up with a theoretical way of making it work and then we prototyped it. That worked and so we put together a team to develop it. They started with the core functionality and we agreed to put off certain functionality and problems for a later date. We were sure we could solve them and we considered them when working on the current functionality but we didn't get blocked by them.

If we look at what we have developed now compared to what we thought we needed to develop we would have thought it impossible.

The art of cooking is breaking things down into smaller steps. By following each step even a beginner cook can usually make something edible. A dish that seems complex and difficult can normally be broken down into the steps needed to produce it.

Dave Brailsford was put in charge of a cycling team. He built the team ethos around something referred to as the “Aggregation of marginal gains.”

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

By breaking everything down into smaller areas and then improving each area he was able to transform that cycling team to a team of winners.

Sports people do training drills for specific skills. Footballers practice dribbling, shooting and other skills to improve each aspect of their game. Basketball players may focus on shooting or defending; golfers may practice their driving and putting. In each case that practice and small improvements can transform their game.

It is not always the big things that make the biggest difference. Sometimes it is all the small things that can make the impossible possible.


Skip the Line