Tackling Large Tedious Tasks

Brian picNo one much likes large, tedious tasks. They feel overwhelming. Even the thought of them starts to drain energy away. If you cannot get someone else to do all or part of the task, or if not thinking about it does not make it go away, a good start is chocolate, caffeine, or some other legal perk that brightens the onset of the dreaded task.

When I was a new ensign in the navy, I had to take a week course on managing time and tasks. The instructor introduced the “Swiss Cheese Method.” As a food lover, this got my elbow off the desk and my head off my cradling palm. He proceeded to say that picking a small part of the task and accomplishing it is like making a hole in the cheese. Each new bit of sustained effort knocks another hole in the cheese. swisscheese

This has stood me in good stead ever since. After the shock of a big, new task, it is not so hard to start dividing it into smaller parts. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, even a half an hour or more, make a huge difference. Spread over multiple parts of a day, or multiple days, a large, tedious task can become a series of modest parts done one at a time, until—no cheese is left!

procrastination_7Advice is tricky. It sounds good but is more easily talked about than expedited. The hardest thing is getting started because procrastination is as mean as the devil himself. It provokes dread, feelings of oppressive weight upon the mind, and erosion of self-respect. It must be faced with sword and fire at times. However, once you make that first thrust through the cheese and knock out a precious bit of the looming, fearful task, it is easier to make the next thrust, and then the next. Pretty soon, you start not only doing this, but telling others about it as well—because it works!

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2 comments on “Tackling Large Tedious Tasks

  1. myevette2000 says:

    Oh, you know me so well. However, I have tried to master the skill of breaking down a task into smaller parts. It does work and sometimes I even continue working on the large task until I finish it. I find starting a task is the most difficult part. Good luck to both of us as we work through the semester.

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