Yesterday I asked you guys to write down three things that have been living on your to-do list for way too long. Realize that these items a laden with stress. Even if you are not thinking about them often, they are causing you stress. Having major task on your list can make you feel overwhelmed even when you have had a hugely productive day or week. You want to celebrate your awesome productivity but you can’t because as long as those big items are on the list, you still feel behind. This can lead to less happiness because even when you are trying to relax and do something for yourself, you feel guilty. Constant thoughts of incomplete task components cause it to be retained in memory better. Interruptions that cause a person to fall behind in their objective also cause anxiety that brings about constant thoughts of unfinished business. This is known as the Zeigarnik Effect.
So why are they still on the list?
Why are these things still looming over you?
Most likely because they are so big, you don’t know where to start. We like to start tasks we can finish. This is why most of us look at a to-do list and always start with the small easy tasks first. I can usually knock off half of my list in 30min. The other half seems to stick around for days. A big reason why we procrastinate is because when we think, ” I need to plan that trip ” or ” I need to …,” those tasks actually contain so many sub-tasks that it creates a mental overload, so we’d rather take the path of least resistance and wait until we absolutely have to do it or somehow the issue resolves itself. The way to beat this is to break down the task into micro-steps.
Here is what I want you to do: For each item on the list you created yesterday, create a single subtask that will take no longer than 5 min to complete. For example, take a list like this:
Get a new job
Build a website
Write a book
And create a reasonable list like this:
Find a job opening on the web
Find a website template that you like
Write a title for the first chapter
It’s not your final outcome but once you get started, you’re much more likely to keep going. This helps you break the pattern of stalling or dreading your work.