There are some tasks that you really want to do, but are so big that you don’t know how you’ll find the time to complete it, or even where to start. There are two solutions:
- put aside a day (or longer) and work on it until the task is finished
- work on the task a little bit regularly over a longer period of time
Advantages of little and often
- less resistance to starting the task if you know you only need to work on it for a short time
- less procrastination as you can stop working on the task when you get tired of it and lose focus
- means you can progress several tasks in a day, this can reduce stress particularly if you are working towards deadlines (especially if there is a chance the deadline maybe moved forward) or you need to provide regular progress updates
- your brain has time to think about the task in between sessions and may come up with new ideas
Disadvantages of little and often
- can take a longer duration to complete the task
- can forget where you were with the task
- can have lots of ongoing tasks which can get annoying or frustrating
- can trick yourself into thinking you are making progress by working on a task frequently, but if do too little each time e.g. reorganise pages in a file, you don’t move towards completing the task
Writing a will has been on my to do list for years, but has really been nagging since giving birth.Â This is a good example of where I implemented the little and often technique to complete a big task in a few short tasks.
- brainstormed what I wanted to happen to my belongings and money
- discussed with husband who should look after our daughter if we both died
- drafted text
- wrote final text
- signed will in front of witnesses
- filed will and informed executors
For me the two key parts of working little and often are working on the task frequently and keeping a record of what needs doing next. Here are some ideas to get you thinking of how you could incorporate them into your productivity system.
- introduce a rotating system, such as AutoFocus, where you work on tasks as they appear, or by working on different project areas on a rotating basis through the day as discussed in Get Everything Done: And Still Have Time to Play
- work on the task on a set day and time by adding it to your calendar
- work on the task after a set number of days after completing it by adding it to your calendar
What needs to be done next
- keep notes with the task of any ideas you’ve had as you work on it; when you next pick up the task you can review your thoughts and decide which ones to do next
- write on your task list the next task; make sure the task is descriptive and uses an action word e.g. measure breakfast bar to ensure stools will fit before purchasing
- develop a checklist to keep track of progress. The picture shows an extract of a checklist I have to keep track of where I’ve got to with sorting out my photographs
Do you use a little and often approach? How do you implement it?
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