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Need to get something big done? Start small.

When you have lots of stuff to get done, it can get pretty overwhelming. When you need to tackle a massive project, it can be hard to know where to start and that means decision paralysis and its inevitable consequence: you do nothing at all. But if you start small, everything becomes doable. You know that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”? It’s true. Big things become easier when you break them down into small things. (Don’t eat elephants, btw. It’s just mean).

Break it down

Say you’ve had a party at your house. It was a very good party. Yay, you! But now you have to clean up before grandma arrives. Take a look around – there’s garbage everywhere, all your dishes are dirty and all over the place, there’s mysterious gloop on the rug, the bathroom’s a total mess and why is everything is so sticky? Where do you even begin? Well, we’ve just thirteen words to say to you: Break it down into smaller tasks and write them down in a list. Your task is a lot less intimidating a) when you start to figure out what specifically needs to be done and b) when you get it out of your head and on to a list.

Your “clean the entire house” list

Break down your “clean the entire house” into smaller, more manageable tasks and write them down, maybe even in order of how you should do them, if you’re feeling feisty. So, your list might look like this:

  • Get cleaning stuff together: trash bags, cloths, carpet cleaner
  • Collect all cans, put in recycling
  • Go through all rooms, pick up trash
  • Take trash out

See, it’s looking better already. Pretty simple, huh? Because, for the most part, one big task is just a bunch of little tasks. And this goes for writing your first novel, learning to play the violin, opening a vegan diner – anything you want to achieve. Lists also look cool- bullet points beat whole paragraphs any day.

Breaking things down into smaller tasks and making lists are the basics of productivity, whether you apply them to a specific project or just to having a productive day. They’re great to get your thoughts, and your life, in order. And although you still have to eat that metaphorical elephant, it makes it so much easier to swallow and this helps you psychologically, too. Everything seems so much more doable when you break it down.

And having an organized way of getting your stuff done doesn’t just feel good; it’s good for your brain. It’s just science. The boffins have found that planning your activities can reduce your anxiety, and that making lists can improve your memory.

So, next time you’re overwhelmed, don’t have a break down. Break it down.

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