Welcome to Day 3 of my 31-day blogging streak! Not sure what I’m talking about? Click here!
I’ve come up with a solution to help me get moving and power through some of these “overwhelming” tasks. It’s almost stupefying in its simplicity and obviousness, but I suppose that’s also what makes it remarkable.
Do 3 things.
I’ve always been a “big picture” person, but there are times when looking at the big picture isn’t the right way to go. When my house is dirty, like it is now, I have a tendency to look at all the things that need to be cleaned and picked up, think about how long it will take me to do ALL of it, and slink away in avoidance. When I’m busy and my to-do list is growing exponentially by the minute, I feel like I have to take on everything at once and get overwhelmed.
When I’m staring down a gargantuan, overwhelming task, what helps me overcome my fear and eventually be productive is to simply “do three things”. Instead of trying to dive in and clean the whole kitchen at once, I start by identifying the three littlest things I can do: Pick up those shoes. Put that puzzle box back with the other games. Take that plate to the sink. Oh, that was easy! Now let’s do three more things: take those coffee mugs to the sink. Put that box of crackers back in the pantry. Recycle that LaCroix can.
One time, I was having a day at work. It was Friday afternoon, and I just could.not.do.ANYTHING. I was trying to force myself to make envelopes and send out some letters and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It seemed like the most unfathomably arduous task anyone could possibly be faced with. The only thing that broke my Friday afternoon mental stiffness was to divide even that simple task into 3 baby steps at a time:
Take out letters
Separate letters that need to be copied
Take letters to copier
Put that number of envelopes in feeder
Open document with letters
I’m dead serious. That is an actual three-things breakdown I needed to make just to do one of the most simple things I do at my job.
The hardest part of doing something is just deciding to get up and do it already. You can’t run a marathon all at once; you have to start by taking that first step over the starting line. Then you have to get through that first mile. Then the halfway point. Until finally, before you know it, you’re crossing the finish line in a joyful, relieved, exhausted stupor.
Breaking up an overwhelming task into smaller, more manageable pieces is remarkably effective at making the task easier to do and increasing productivity. So when you’re struggling to do something big, just do 3 things. 3 little things. The number 3 is arbitrary. It could be 2, or 4, or any other number you like. I like 3.