Certainly we have heard a million times that the largest journey starts with a single step. We have been told that everything worth doing and achieving takes time and that if we want to be able to achieve our long term goals we will need to focus on the things we can do easily so that these gigantic tasks won’t feel absolutely overwhelming. However it is easy to see why this advice is not easy to follow for most of us. There are many problems involved with the mere attempt to break up large tasks into smaller ones. On today’s post I want to talk about the inherent difficultness of breaking up tasks, what the main problems around task-breaking are and finally I will conclude by giving you some simple tips on how you can improve your task-breaking skills. If you find this post interesting you may also want to look at my previous post, 5 tips to breakup large tasks into smaller ones.
What is so difficult about task-breaking ? I can tell you that I have had several long term goals in my life and I have failed with many of them due to the fact that I couldn’t get myself to make them manageable tasks. To give you an example, I once wanted to start a commercial crop. I had this idea for a few years in my mind but I simply couldn’t digest it into tasks that seemed easy and manageable. The fact is that the more ambitious your long term goal is, the more blurry it will look and the harder it will be to get that goal broken up into smaller tasks you can manage. The harder things are to get done, the harder they are to get broken down.
The fact is that – after all- breaking up a task is a task after all. When you are procrastinating on something because you simply do not want to do it or you want to achieve something but you are certainly not getting anywhere, there is no motivation to sit down and do a task breaking activity. If there are reasons why you are not working on something, then these reasons will be barriers to task-breaking in the first place. We usually avoid to work on things that seem overwhelming. If the mere thought of them makes us want to stop thinking about them, how in the world do you expect to work on task-breaking on a subject you are avoiding in the first place ?
The answer here is to make task-breaking the first default part of every task. This gives you a clear idea of the first thing that you need to do with anything: task-breaking. When task breaking seems overwhelming, it means that the goal that has been set is just too blurry for the current situation so an actual goal-cutting needs to happen. If you are telling yourself “I want to write a novel” and breaking that up into tasks is absolutely overwhelming – since from nothing to novel is not a path you can draw clearly – then set your goal much lower. Say : “I want to write the first chapter of a book”. Writing a 20 page chapter is much easier than writing a whole book and this is something for which task-breaking is not overwhelming. You can sit down and decide the steps to get to that first chapter with the thought that it will eventually lead into the whole book but with no clear steps outlined between the first chapter and the final book writing. When you get to the first chapter, you will do some linking and set your next goal.
Breaking up tasks is not getting your goals divided into inflexible steps that need to be finished with absolute precision. It is only meant to establish a guideline that will make things a lot easier. Do not hesitate to put yourself goals that you know will set you on your way from A to B without actually getting to B. Playing a one minute song on a violin won’t certainly get you to your pro player goal but it is certainly a milestone towards that achievement. It is difficult for us to picture all steps of a road so don’t be afraid to set intermediate goals that will get you on your way towards the bigger task.
If you need to file a whole year report on your company just set yourself a goal of doing the first month or the introduction, it certainly is easier to divide this goal into steps and it will get you towards your goal of finishing the project. When you finish the first goal, you will head towards the next one, setting goals at a speed that makes them easily dividable and achievable through easy steps. As you see here, the key to task-breaking is to be flexible about it and to allow yourself to evolve naturally towards what you want to do at your own rhythm. You should set yourself goals that do NOT seem overwhelming and then do your task-breaking on THOSE goals. It is very difficult to break huge tasks into manageable tasks without being overwhelmed by the mere breakup job while setting yourself simpler, small goals – one by one – and breaking up the tasks for those will be a much easier thing to achieve. In the end, being flexible abut your task-breaking and allowing this skill to work in-line with your way of thinking will allow you to achieve your long term objectives.