Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting Things Done

Sometimes the process of getting things done is so overwhelming. It is especially hard for me when I have a lot of little things to do. It just feels all to easy to procrastinate on them since they are each individually so small.

This doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you consider that the best way for me to tackle big projects is to break them down into a lot of little steps. I think the difference must lie in the perceived payoff. A large job simply has a higher perceived value than a little one. This is why when you're tackling something large, you break it down into manageable pieces so that you don't become overly anxious about the end goal.

But what do you do when you have lots of little things to do that don't individually have a large payoff? How do you maintain motivation when there is no clear glory upon completion of your mini-tasks?

The psychology of delayed gratification is pretty clear: it's much harder to achieve long-term goals than it is to achieve short-term goals that have an immediate benefit. Health is the most obvious example. That hour that I spent in the gym yesterday is just part of the daily health activities that I need to undertake to maintain a healthy body. But it's not as if I come home and my cholesterol levels and pant size have instantly dropped. In fact, with health, most of the time the small steps that we need to take can be a little painful at the time and/or immediately afterward.

So - back to reality. Today I have a lot of little projects that simply must get done. None of them have an immediate payoff, and they aren't particularly enjoyable. To handle this, I'm going to plan a mini celebration when I have completed them. I'll go outside and sit in the sun and remember how grateful I am for the life that I have and the opportunities I face.

Let me know if you have any other ideas!

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