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20 Sep

How to divide a large task into smaller pieces

Datum: 2017-09-20 10:37

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? Tell me!