Break Large Jobs Into Small Tasks

A week before I left Berkeley for a month in France, I began to feel overwhelmed—and daunted—by what needed to be done before my departure. I woke up one morning telling myself to begin making a list of everything I must do in the next weeks, and as I began to enumerate the chores, I could feel myself becoming tenser with each item.

Luckily I was aware of my growing tension, and quickly reminded myself to think small.

But how to do this? How can I think small when I have so darned much to do, all of it essential to preparing our home for our departure, and me for the trip itself and the month-long stay in France?

It took a while, I admit, to come up with a plan. But the minute I did so, I could feel the tension draining out of me. What a relief!

Here’s what I did: I wrote each chore on a separate slip of colored paper. I created a colorful stack of slips and put them in a nice little box on my kitchen counter. Then, each morning, I removed one slip. If I accomplished nothing else for our trip that day, I committed to completing that particular task.

If I was able to dispense quickly with the item on the slip, then depending on my schedule that day, I plucked another from my box. Even if I didn’t manage to complete this second task, I knew in advance that it was extra, like whipped cream on a slice of pie. If I didn’t get to the chore that day, I saved it for the next.

Immediately after creating this plan, I felt lighter. And the plan worked! I got everything necessary accomplished for a smooth departure. And when we left the house, I felt energized instead of my usual depleted.

If you practice small in this way, you will have results similar to mine..

Think about today or this week. Does anything on your agenda—or everything—feel overwhelming? If so, break it down into small. Divide whatever you have to do into its smallest parts and consider each part a separate entity. Then, as you complete each one, consider it an accomplishment.

Breaking large tasks or obligations down into their small parts is the best way to help you accomplish what may otherwise seem overwhelming—or even impossible. And in the process, you may way experience a greater sense of accomplishment than ever before.

Thinking Small and Happy


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