Completing the Task / Study Habits

by Diane Roseberry
(Nashville, Tn, USA)

My Kitchen Table

My Kitchen Table

I haven't actually "studied" for a long time, but I have always had plenty of work to do - pleasant and unpleasant.

I am first of all a list maker. I make the list and then prioritize it. I find that there are some things I transfer from list to list -- those things that I find less interesting or even intimidating.

I do try to start and finish one thing at a time rather than start too many things at once.

I put on my calendar those things that are unpleasant and actually "schedule" a time for me to complete them.

And, when they are done, I cross them off my list with satisfaction.

* * *

You make some interesting points here, Diane...

Getting Difficult Things Done

You mention that you transfer difficult tasks from list to list.

When this type of task crops up, I have found that it helps to put it on my list of things to do tomorrow (unless, of course, it is same-day urgent).

Scheduling, as you do, is great way to deal with difficult tasks because it provides a buffer -- time and ‘permission’ not to worry about doing it.

When the scheduled day comes (ideally the day after the task appeared) do the task.

Of course that is easier said than done -- just because a task has been scheduled for a specific day, it doesn’t make the task itself any easier.

So what is the answer?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

1) Break it down

Many difficult tasks are actually projects (things that require more than one action).

Doing one chunk of it means progress has been made, so it can be crossed off you list to be continued the following day (or there and then if you so wish).

A ‘chunk’ can either be a physical action towards completion, or it can be a set length of time to work on it.

2) “Just...”

Mark Forster, in his time management book Do It Tomorrow, suggests fooling the part of your mind that is resisting the task.

For example, if you want to write an assignment you say out loud to yourself, “I am not going to write my assignment today, I will just read and make a few notes."

Seeing Things Through, One Project at a Time

You also mention that you try to start and finish one thing at a time rather than start too many things at one.

This is by far the most effective way to tackle projects.

(Multi-tasking is actually the wrong phrase -- on a day to day basis you will usually have several unrelated tasks to deal with. What we’re really talking about is ‘multi-projecting’. Trying to do more than one project at a time is a sure fire recipe for failure.)

Most people have several projects in waiting.

The trick is to pick the most important one first and focus on it day by day (using the ‘chunk it down’ technique if necessary) until it is completed, then move on to the next one, and so on.

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