October 24, 2022

Daunting? Divide, Then Do.

Have you ever had a huge task that you keep delaying? That task that feels like it will take hours for you to finish, and it's just so hard to sit down and start.

I've had so many in the past, and I've learned one trick that always helped me when this happens: break it down into smaller, easier-and-quicker-to-do tasks.

I thought I was delaying these huge tasks because they demanded too much time and energy from me. Maybe they did. And maybe that's part of it. But there was another reason why I was resisting. I found out that most of the time, the problem was ambiguity. It's a puzzle and I don't know where the pieces are. I don't even know what they are.

How should I start? What should I do? What resources do I need? What's the end goal?

And then it clicked: divide it into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Now, whenever I find myself rearranging my calendar and moving a big task for later, I know it's one of those.

So, I allot time for planning, and then do the work.

Here's how I tackle a huge task:

  1. Determine the end goal. I need to know exactly what result I want. And then I plan the project toward that end goal. It provides clarity and focus. Without that, there's no direction to follow, and I still wouldn't know how to start and how to finish the work.
  2. Divide the work into smaller tasks. I create a to-do list with checkboxes. Those smaller tasks will tell me where to start and what to do next. And then what's next. And then what's next. It eliminates having to think about the next step every time I finish one piece of the puzzle.
  3. Do, step by step. All I need to do is breeze through the list. These smaller tasks are specific, clear, and easier to do, so there really isn't much resistance. It feels good each time I tick off a box, and I get the motivation to keep going. The more check marks I see on my list, the greater my drive to finish the whole thing right away.

After the last task—voila! It's done. What was once a puzzle is now a complete picture.

I sometimes still find myself surprised and ask: is that it? I get a feeling that I must have missed something, simply because the huge, daunting task wasn't actually so hard to complete.

Is there a project so big that it can't be broken down into concrete steps? I don't think so. First, get clarity on what you want accomplished. Then, define the steps. Then, do.