Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Breaking It Down: Task Management 101

Sherry Franklin, Teresa Lansford | Published: October 25th, 2022 by K20 Center


When you have a big task ahead of you, you need a plan. Why? Because when you have setbacks, a solid plan and manageable goals can help. In this activity, students learn about using micro-goals to break apart large tasks into smaller pieces, how to make big projects more manageable, and how to handle setbacks.

Essential Question

How can we make our tasks more manageable? How can we make sure we finish tasks on time?

Learning Goals

  • Analyze a task to determine how to break it down into smaller goals.

  • Create a plan for completing a task.

  • Reflect on the success of the plan.

Materials List

  • Activity Slides (attached)

  • Two Steps Forward game handout (attached; one per student)

  • Sample Micro-Goals Planner handout (attached; one per group)

  • Micro-Goals Planner handout (attached; one per student)

  • Pencils or pens

  • Six-sided dice (one for each pair of students)

  • Paper (optional)


10 Minute(s)

Using the attached Activity Slides, share the title of the activity, essential question and learning objectives on slides 2-4.

Move to slide 5. Group students in pairs and provide each student with the attached Two Steps Forward handout. Give each pair one six-sided die.

Tell students they’ll be playing a game. The goal of the game is to get to 50 points first. Starting with zero points, students should roll the die. If they roll a 1, 2, or 3, they should subtract that number of points from their score. If they roll a 4, 5, or 6, they should add that number of points to their score. Have students keep track of their scores on their handouts as shown on the slide.

Give students a few minutes to play.

Once students have finished, move to slide 6 and discuss the questions: 

  • How long did it take to reach 50 points? 

  • How did it feel to have a setback when you rolled a 1-3? 

Share with students that, just like in the game, we may have setbacks sometimes in life that make things take longer than they should. Tell them they will be learning some ways to manage those setbacks so they don’t become barriers to reaching important goals.


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 7. As a class, discuss the two questions shown:

  • What supports do you have as part of your day, week, month, or year that help you complete complicated or large tasks? (These are benefits.)

  • What sorts of things can keep you from completing those tasks? (These are barriers.)

Move to slide 8 and introduce your student to the T-Chart instructional strategy. Have your students draw their own matching T-Chart on the back of their Two Steps Forward handout or a separate sheet of paper. Have each student record their own benefits and barriers to accomplishing tasks. After they have had some time to reflect, ask them:

  • Which of your barriers do you have the power to change?

  • Which barriers are unavoidable?


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 9 and introduce “micro-goals”: Micro-goals are small tasks that help reach the goal of completing a much larger task. Ask students: How can large tasks be broken down into smaller tasks?

Move to slide 10 and show your students the sample goal, a 10-page research paper. Ask students what smaller goals we could create to help get us to the big goal.

Place your students into groups of 3-4. Pass out a copy of the attached Sample Micro-Goals Planner handout to each group.  Give each time to generate a list of small tasks that will make the 10-page research paper more manageable.

Move to slide 11. Have students share their ideas about breaking the task down into micro-goals. After each group has shared, encourage students to revise their own micro-goals based on other groups’ feedback.

Display slide 12 and discuss as a class the questions on the slide:

  • How does setting micro-goals make tasks less intimidating?

  • How can they help us when we encounter setbacks?


15 Minute(s)

Move to slide 13. Inform your students that it is now their turn to apply micro-goals to a large task of their own. Have students take some time to look over their calendars or agendas and find a large task or a club project due in the next few weeks.

Tell students they will be breaking down their large task into micro-goals, then testing those goals over the next week or so. Pass out a copy of the attached Micro-Goals Planner handout to each student.  Give students time to fill out the planner, encouraging conversation among students to help them come up with ideas and suggestions for each other. Tell students they need to be prepared to share their task and micro-goals at the next meeting.


10 Minute(s)

At your next meeting, display slide 14. Remind students of the essential questions. Have students get out their Micro-Goals Planners from the previous meeting.  

Display slide 15 and introduce students to the instructional strategy Always, Sometimes, or Never True. Have students read the set of statements on the slide. For each one, ask students to choose the answer that describes how often they think the statement is true: always, sometimes, or never. As a class, discuss the responses to each statement. Evaluate the activity as you listen to students respond to the last statement I will use micro-goals again.

Research Rationale

Regardless of the focus of the extracurricular activity, club participation can lead to higher grades (Durlak et al., 2010; Fredricks & Eccles, 2006; Kronholz, 2012); additional benefits are possible when these clubs explore specific curricular frameworks. Club participation enables students to acquire and practice skills beyond a purely academic focus. It also affords them opportunities to develop skills such as self-regulation, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking (Allen et al., 2019). When structured with a strong curricular focus, high school clubs can enable participants to build the critical social skills and "21st-century skills" that better position them for success in college and the workforce (Allen et al., 2019; Durlak et al., 2010; Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). Supportive relationships between teachers and students can be instrumental in developing a student's sense of belonging (Pendergast et al., 2018; Wallace et al., 2012), and these support systems enable high-need, high-opportunity youth to establish social capital through emotional support, connection to valuable information resources, and mentorship in a club context (Solberg et al., 2021). Through a carefully designed curriculum that can be implemented within the traditional club structure, students stand to benefit significantly as they develop critical soft skills.