Words of wisdom from Sashi Ono.
How to build a robot
Step 1: Design
Outline your goals and write them down. Do not start anything until you have figured out what you want to accomplish. Then come up with your working design for your project. If you haven't done something similar before don't go too wild, keep it simple yet effective.
Step 2: Planning
Come up with a timeline of your project. Think carefully, as missing deadlines (contests) can mess up all your goals. Work in Parallel, that is do not waste time. If you are waiting for parts to come you should be doing something else. A simple breakup consists of Chassis, Hardware, and Software. I would recommend breaking up your progress into weekly steps to ensure constant progress. Make sure you get something big done once a week otherwise you will be crunched for time later on which is not good for your health.
Step 3: Ordering and Gathering Parts
This needs to be done as early as possible. Do not wait. Without parts your chassis and hardware will not progress. Do not waste your time here, pick something that works and go with it.
Step 4: Building
Hopefully you have gotten all your parts so you can start building and putting together your design. If you have planed well this step should be relatively simple just follow through with your design. My suggestion is to start with the Chassis as this determines the flow for the rest of the project.
Step 5: Debugging
This is where your engineering skills come out. You will run into problems. Expect it and plan for it. You may realize that your design doesn't work and may need to start over. The second time you do anything is faster. You will often need to come up with unique fixes and solutions.
Step 6: Optimizing
Once you get something working kind of the way you want you will probability want to optimize it. Feel free to do so but do not move far away from your initial goals and plans. An important skill is to keep you design constantly working. Do not give into the urge to dismantle your project for improving it. You are better off starting off new project and keeping your current design working as a fall back plan. Also know when to stop. Constant tweaking often creates problems and makes things messy and harder to debug when problems do happen.
Step 7: Show Off
After you have a working project feel free to show off. You have accomplished something big here and put a lot of time into it you have the right to. Encourage others to undertake what you have done if you feel that it was a worthwhile project. Do not bash others with similar projects as they have probability worked just as hard as you and you wouldn't want others to bash on you. Release documentation of your project to help others learn and gain from your project.