Case Study 1: “Peter. Go up to your room and put all your toys away!”
Peter was not happy with this order. Visibly lacking his normal enthusiasm, he went upstairs to his room.
We went up to check with him half an hour later…..nothing done!
Peter was sitting at his desk looking out the window. Every square centimeter of the floor was still covered with toys.
His mother gently took him by the hand and wading through the toys told him to sit against the wall and stretch out his legs.
“The only thing you have to do is to put away the toys that are between your legs.” she said. “Once you’ve done that move to the right, stretch out your legs and do the same thing again.”
Forty-five minutes later all done!
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming task into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.” Mark Twain
This principle is applicable to all walks of life. How many of us have experienced putting off a large time-consuming task because…well because we are so busy …we may even have given it a lot of thought, too much thought actually, often at night when in our head the list of all the things that we need to get done steals from us the precious sleep we so badly need.
Thinking about something is not the same thing as acting on it. Too much time spent thinking and speculating is often a sign of procrastination, “beating around the bush”…….delaying….. making things more complicated than they are…….instead of just acting on it.
The quote from Mark Twain tells us how to start.
Case Study 2: How do you tackle a complex project taking an estimated 200 hours of time from an already busy schedule?
To start with you’ll need to find an environment where you can think……so without any disturbances, meaning no phone or other notifications.
Then the primary question we ask is:
“What is the very first action you need to take?”
(the participant answers)
“OK and next…. when? Please add that date to your To Do System-Task Manager.”
“What? You don’t have one. You keep your To Do’s in your head and on scraps of paper and for really important stuff you send an email to yourself?”
This is fundamental! Without a Task Manager system, it would be impossible to complete a project like this.
And without going further we pause and help the participant to create one.
That done we continue:
“What is your next action?
When?” and so forth.
*You break down the complex task or project into small doable parts which in turn are assigned a date in your To Do System-Task Manager.
But we’re still far from finished. This was the easy part. Remember you’re busy. How are you actually going to get these tasks done and stay on target to complete the project? More on that in my blog next week.
*I often recommend using some form of categories so you can visually group these tasks to distinguish them from other tasks.