There have been moments where I felt like there are so many things that demand my attention and that they are too big for me to deal with. Massive tasks that I don’t know where to start from and how to approach them in order to complete them. I was feeling lost and helpless.
There is a way
For example, if I would have to write a 5000 word report and it’s this massive, daunting thing in my mind that I keep ignoring and find other things to do just because I don’t want to even look at writing the report.
There is one main reason why we procrastinate and avoid tackling those overarching tasks that keep nagging us at the back of our mind – we don’t have a plan.
A plan is made up of:
- Breakdown of tasks that will lead to achieving the goal
- Schedule of when to do the tasks
In the example above the goal would be “Write a 5000 words report on [topic]”.
The tasks would be:
- Make a plan of how the report will be structured
- Write down key arguments for each section of the report
- Develop the arguments for each section
- Revise for a good overall flow
- Check for spelling and other mistakes
- Complete bibliography
Some of the tasks above are broad. They are an overall plan. Those tasks will need to be broken down into smaller tasks and eventually your tasks must represent specific actions.
Here is the main reason why there are areas in our minds that we can’t deal with and see them as massive dark clouds in the sky – we don’t have specific actions on how to deal with them. The plan gives us those actions and all that is left to do is to know when to do the actions.
Note: Sometimes several iterations of making a broader plan and then breaking it down into smaller and smaller actions is necessary, but you can do that step by step as you go through the tasks.
A schedule solves the problem of when to complete a given action. Take the list of what you have to do and think how long it will take you to do few of the actions. Now give yourself more than that time to complete them, because there must be enough left for rest and unexpected distractions. If you don’t leave that extra time, it is likely to overwork or stress yourself out and then see the plan as something not achievable.
In the example above, the first task “Make a plan of how the report will be structured” can take you half an hour to do. Leave double that time so that you have enough to take a break and re-focus for the next task.
If we don’t see an a specific action in our minds, we block.
Other benefits of having a plan
Having a plan gives priorities which in turn allows us the say “no” to other things that try to occupy our attention.
The quickest way of doing something is to not do it.
By saying “no” to distractions you save yourself time. Before you even make something into a task, ask yourself “Do I really need to do this?“.
It is possible to see the “make a plan” as another of those “grey clouds in the sky”. Don’t do that, as making a plan is simple. You already know what the task is, simply observe it in your mind and imagine what you would have to do to make it happen – the plan is already under way.
I hope this helps, as I know how paralyzed one can feel in these situations. If you have too many things to do, just focus on the most urgent one and follow the process above. I use Trello to manage my daily tasks and can’t live without it now. Let me know if you want to find out more about using Trello.
Don’t waste time, look at that “grey cloud” and spend 5 minutes making a bread-down plan for it now.