Organize Yourself in 2015–Integrate Your Complex Tasks

In the 18th chapter of his book on confronting habits of procrastination called Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy suggests that you ‘slice and dice your complex tasks.”   I prefer to refer to this as “integrating your complex tasks.”

What I mean by “integrate” is the mathematical sense of the term.   When you take the area under a curve, you take the integral of the function that creates the curve.   What this means mathematically, is that you take the areas curve and you cut it into smaller areas by taking squares that are made up of fractions of the length of the two sides.     One square will yield four squares if you take one-half of your square’s length and height as your new base “grid”, nine squares if you take one-third of the side for your base grid, etc.

If you have a complex task, similarly, rather than being overwhelmed with its size or complexity, the best thing to do is to split it up into smaller pieces.    When I make my yearly goals, they sometimes seem like a bit of a stretch, such as this year when I said to myself I wanted to learn a new language, Hindi, at the beginning level at least (A2 on the European Common Reference Scale for foreign language learning).    However, when I split it into months using a Basic Hindi course as a guide, I realized if I did a chapter every two weeks, I would be finished with the course by the end of the year.    However, before starting the Basic Hindi course I needed to take a mini-course to be able to read the Devanagari script in which Hindi is written.   So that was my goal for January.    Using the Memrise app, I found that there are four levels of learning the script and so I assigned one of these to each week.    I’m now halfway through the Devanagari “alphabet”, but it app requires me doing a little bit each day.    I cannot spare an hour an day on this project, but I can spare 5-10 minutes a day, which is all I need to finish the day’s lessons.

My schedule is filled with these kind of daily practices, including the writing of this WordPress blog post, which contribute to my overall goals in a way that is incremental, satisfying, and yet still doable.

But besides the goals that are your own personal goals, it is ESPECIALLY important for those goals at work where you are given some enormous project.     The size and complexity of the project can seem daunting, but you don’t have to finish the project in a day.   You only have to move the ball forward–one unit.    That unit is defined as you want, but I find that for a complex project, one hour a day can be sufficient if there is no artificial deadline you are working under.   This is because it takes a while for your brain to hit the “flow zone” where you are really working in the flow of the task you are doing.   Switching tasks every thirty minutes takes too much “reorienting” time before you really start to get involved in the new task.

For that reason, the complex tasks should be given one hour time units, the medium tasks one-half hour, and the smaller tasks can be fifteen minutes or less.   But the trick is to do something!

My mother once told me that if there was something unpleasant or difficult to be done, promise yourself that you will at least START on the work and do five minutes worth.   If after five minutes worth of work, you elect to quit, then do so, and pick it up again at the same time the next day for five more months.   This gives your brain a psychological “safety valve” so that you don’t feel under too much pressure.   However, once you start a task, nine times out of ten, you realize that “hey, this isn’t so bad,” and most of the difficulty was a mental projection based on your own irrational fear rather than anything approaching reality.

If you get to five minutes, and you think, well, maybe I could do more, then stretch out your commitment to 15 minutes, and so on until you hit one hour.   AND THEN STOP NO MATTER WHAT!

At least take a break for air, and then look back and see what you’ve accomplished in that hour and give yourself some sort of reward for having so!     In this way, you will wear down the fear or anxiety that is at the root of a lot of procrastination.

If you “integrate” your work in that way, you will definitely “differentiate” yourself from the crowd!   🙂


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