Tackling Hard Tasks

These practical approaches make it easier to get big jobs done

Complicated but important tasks are less intimidating if you start small, make quick decisions, and take mistakes as opportunities to learn. (Dean Drobot/Shutterstock)
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By Leo Babauta

Generally, we avoid hard tasks, putting them off while we either do easier tasks or distract ourselves. This is understandable, as a hard task might feel daunting or overwhelming. Unfortunately, spending our hours on urgent but easy tasks versus difficult but important tasks is generally a costly choice.

So let’s talk for a minute about hard tasks. If we can focus on them and get them done, we can have a greater impact in a fraction of the time.​​​​

The reason we tend to avoid hard tasks is usually that they’re daunting—filled with uncertainty and sub-tasks to the point of being overwhelming. We also fear failing at them.

So what I’ve found to help are things people know but often dismiss.

Do a small bit of the bigger task.

People dismiss this because they underestimate how powerful it can be. Have a big report to do? Just rough out the first two paragraphs. It increases your ability to tackle the hard task by a hundredfold, because you’re much more likely to start, and once you start, you’re much more likely to take on the next small bit.

Get into the practice of choosing and trusting.

If a decision freezes you up, you’ll likely stop doing the hard task. So don’t let yourself freeze up—just choose, and trust that you made a decent choice, or that you’ll be able to deal with whatever comes. This becomes a freeing practice, because you can just choose, choose, choose, and trust yourself without fretting too much. Choose quickly, move on, repeat.

Think of failing as learning.

When we think of the possibility of failing at something, we may interpret that as something bad about ourselves, that we’re inadequate, stupid, unworthy. But what if we frame it as part of the learning process, meaning nothing about us and everything about what we might learn? Let this free us.

These take practice. Start with the first item, and get into the practice of focusing on hard tasks in small bits. The number of hard but important tasks you’re going to start crushing will be staggering.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net

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