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20 Sep

How to divide a large task into smaller pieces

Date: 2017-09-20 10:37 Comments: 0 st

It is definitely a good idea to divide larger tasks into smaller ones, since they are then much easier to approach and do, and the risk of postponing them decreases. A task can be considered ”large” when it is so extensive that we are tempted to put it off until ”later” whenever we see it on our list, and instead choose to do a smaller task right now. It consists of several parts and often takes more than a workday to complete.

Managing the unmanageable
So how do we split the oversized task into smaller, bite-sized chunks? If it is really extensive, we might even procrastinate dividing the task into smaller parts - especially if we have been postponing it for a while already and have a bad conscience for not getting it done. One of my clients shared an idea regarding this dilemma the other day. Her approach is to first subdivide the task into smaller and more specific areas which we then divide into actual to-do-tasks.

To identify these areas, we can for instance ask ourselves:

  • what parts of the larger task can I do by myself and which parts am I dependent on others for doing?

  • or, what easy and what difficult tasks are hiding in the big one?

  • or, what small, quick tasks and what larger, more complicated and time-consuming tasks are hidden in the larger task?

  • or, which are the first, natural steps to take right now, and which steps should definitely be taken later on?

  • or, what different places (or systems) do I need to log into in order to do smaller tasks that are part of the big one?

  • or, some other way of sub-dividing the large task that is more appropriate and comfortable for you.

Do this
If you want to try and see if this trick could help you get going with procrastinated tasks, skim your to-do-list in search of one you have been putting off for way too long (well, let’s be honest - perhaps you don’t even have to take out your to-do-list to identify one or a few things you have been postponing).

Choose a way to sub-divide the task according to categories appropriate to the task, and again take a look at the task, but now keep the question or areas in mind.

Write down whatever comes to mind as to-do-tasks on your to-do-list, unless you do them immediately. It will definitely be easier to get going now, and you will be at least one or a few steps closer to completing the larger task that has been in the back of your mind for a while.

Ease the burden
If you use one of the suggested ways to divide the task into "areas" in order to get a handle on what previously has felt unmanageable and overwhelming, and hence has been procrastinated, you will divide it into smaller pieces faster and thus help yourself get it done faster as well. Getting rid of these old, procrastinated tasks that have burdened our conscience is quite liberating and our workload often feels a lot lighter, even if we actually have just as much to do as before.

What’s your trick?
How do you make sure to quickly and in a clever way divide a large task into smaller parts? Do you go by some other method? Leave a comment and share. 

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