You look at your task list over the past few weeks and there is this one task that keeps getting pushed from one week to the next. It is overdue by three weeks and you are feeling guilty for not making it a priority.
You rationalize it is too big to deal with. But now you have a three hour period that has opened up on your calendar.
Yet still you find yourself procrastinating.
I’m just reminding you that you can’t procrastinate because you will not be able to reclaim the time to do this task.
So what are you to do with this big task?
1. Determine whether the task is a single task or is a project (multiple tasks)
Sometimes we do not clearly define what we need to do. The task you have may be a series of tasks, otherwise known as a project.
So the first step is to get clear on whether the task is a single task or a project.
For example, I had submit examination reports on my task list.a But this ‘task’ really comprised of
- Creating a draft mark sheet.
- Drafting the examiner’s report and computing statistics on pass rates etc.
- Recheck the additions on each of the 150 scripts.
- Update the mark sheet and the examiner’s report.
- Sign the reports and send to the second examiner to sign.
- Submit reports to the relevant departments.
So my one task was actually a project comprising of six tasks.
2. Do one task at a time, schedule the others
That two or three hour period that you have may be sufficient for only one of the tasks. So your aim is to focus on one only.
Although you are going to focus on only one task now, you will still need to follow through on the others to complete your project.
So open your calendar and see where you have another two or three hour period to assign the next task on the list.
Do not assign all the remaining tasks as yet. You may have other ongoing projects that may need your attention so assign just the next task but copy all the remaining tasks there as a reminder of the next steps.
3. Check that you have all resources for the task
If you are to get anything done, you need all required resources on hand.
If you don’t have the materials then your real task is to get access to them. Make your calls or send the required emails or use the time to shop for the materials. Update your calendar for when you can take action once you have the materials on hand.
4. Work in short intense sessions
You will need to focus to get this task done. No distractions are allowed.
Use short intense sessions to help you focus. This is called the Pomodoro method. In the traditional method, you work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes, work another 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes. Repeat twice and you would have worked for two hours. Then you take a longer break.
When you think you have to work for 2 hours, you get tired just thinking about the work.
But when you work in increments of 25 minutes, this commitment is less mentally and emotionally draining.
Working in short intense sessions helps to get you started and helps you to move to another session easily.
If you do not complete the task then schedule the remaining parts in the next two or three hour block on your calendar.
5. Reward yourself
Starting or even completing an overdue and overwhelming task deserves a reward.
When you have something to look forward to after the work you are more likely to do the task.
In the comments section, leave a note on an overdue and overwhelming task that you have, and break it down into smaller steps. Then when you leave here, take action on the next step.