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Planning is Part of the Process

I used to work in a job that subscribed to the “eat the frog” mentality. The idea was to jump right in and get started with the most difficult or dreaded task by getting that out of the way first. This approach may work for some, and it has rarely worked for myself or the neurodivergent individuals I coach. I have a different idea on this that I’d like to offer, which is that planning is part of the process. It's also okay (and can often more effective) to start with the smallest and easiest action.

 

Begin by identifying and listing the steps required of the task. Next, go back and prioritize. Out of the priorities identified, choose the smallest task with the easiest point of entry. Make note of this somehow (I often use a different color font to highlight it if it’s in a document or a post-it note if it’s on paper), and then set the project aside. End that part of your work by focusing on the success of getting started and with the peace of mind knowing you have a plan for action.

Here’s an example of how this might apply to project. I am managing many appointments, responsibilities and accounts for a family member. I had a stack of paperwork several inches high (or, it at least felt that way), and was experiencing waves of overwhelm every time I had the thought that I “should” be working on it. One night, I laid everything out on the floor and created a chart. I listed out names, phone numbers, policy numbers - anything that would make my life easier as I managed it all. I identified the first step I would need to take and then wrote, "Holly, start here" in big bold letters. I was amazed at how quickly I felt relief. That was where I stopped the task. I didn’t try to convince myself I needed to do more. Instead, I stopped when I knew I needed to stop. Having a clear plan can go a long way in supporting willingness to come back to a task.

A few days later when I looked at the clock and realized I only had about 30 minutes before the end of the business day, I grabbed the phone, opened up the chart, and found the note I made for myself about which call I needed to make first. With all of the information organized, and having “pre-made” the decision earlier about what my first step needed to be, I was able to quickly get started and check one item off my list.

 

  • What large task or project is hanging over your head? 

  • When might you be able to set aside 10 minutes to identify the action steps?

  • What one small task will you start with?

 


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