How to break down a huge task
And updates about my October challenge, and cool recommendations, you know the drill.
I was planning on writing one blog post per day in October (not just here, and email subscriber, don't worry, I can post here without sending an email). Which led me to this problem.
Unconsciously, I think I've been stopping myself from writing. I have 13 pending blog post topics that I've accumulated since mid-August, gathering information and sources but not writing a single one of them.
So I've decided that this month, I'll post something every 3 days (not necessarily here, so follow me on Twitter to see everything!). It allows me to limit the backlog, to be more genuine when I write in October, and also to warm-up for that challenge. I really do need the warm-up, because 31 pieces of content in one month? Yeah, that's going to require dedication and effort. I love dedication and effort, so, good for me.
So, here's today's issue: we're going to talk about how to know where to start when you need to do a large task. I wanted to discuss Britney Spears too, but my girl deserves a full post, so get ready for that.
Enjoy the newsletter, and as usual, if you have any feedback or ways I could improve my writing or any other part of the newsletter, please tell me!
How to break down a huge task
Today's conversation is brought to you by a colleague of mine. In a mental health-dedicated group on our intranet, they talked about how they just can't get started on large tasks, and it sparked a conversation that I thought was really constructive. Here are some takeaways.
Our first reaction when we see a post like this is to try and figure out the root cause of the freeze. Is it because they don't know how to manage their time? Is it because they can't focus for a long time at once, so they never get started for more than a few minutes? Or maybe it's because the task seems to daunting and they feel they'll never finish it?
Starting from there, different solutions arise. If it's a matter of managing time, the Eisenhower matrix is a good tool.
As it turns out, that wasn’t my colleague’s issue. They knew what to delegate and what do take care of. They had time blocks scheduled in their calendar. They just didn’t know what do to during those time blocks. They also implemented the Pomodoro method, so it wasn’t an attention issue either.
So we moved on to the second piece of advice: take your huge task, and divide it into less-than-30 minute tasks. Divide it as much as you can. Yes, formatting is a task. Writing the introduction? That’s a task. Researching one specific link you found? Yep, that’s a task. Everything is a tiny task. Tiny tasks are manageable.
Our colleague said that no, no, the matter wasn’t the task size. They had broken down the project into tiny tasks, that was done perfectly. No, what they got stuck on was this: once they had broken up the project into small tasks, they had a long list of things to do. Where could they start?
Finally, a problem we could solve together!
We suggested dividing those tasks into two categories: things you can do right now, and things you can’t do until you’ve finished one of the tasks in the first category. From there, our colleague could number each of the tasks they could take care of first. Once they had all tasks in a proper list, they could roll a die and get the universe to choose where to start first (and if they didn’t want to start there, they could roll it again, but at least it gave general guidance and removed choice paralysis).
(That’s also how I deal with my ridiculously long list of books to buy and read, for what it’s worth.)
What do you think of that method? Do you have any advice for improving it? I want to hear about you!
Sign up for: The Storygraph, a lightweight, beautiful, free book-reading website to replace Amazon-owned Goodreads.
Follow: Flus, an open-source “citizen social media” (in French) which seems to be a mix of Twitter and Are.na.
Watch: the 2020 Mulan movie. No, not that one. The Chinese one. Available for free on Youtube with full English subtitles. (Warning; it’s a dark and gory war movie, not a Disney singalong!)
Read: my friend Sylve’s post on anti-capitalist discourse in the adorable form of Aggretsuko.