Tasks vs. Projects...Making a list, and checking it twice

This is the time of year that people tend to feel an increase in stress. As much as we love the holidays, and family gatherings, and all of the merriment, we may find it difficult to get everything done. Our lists are longer than usual and intimidating at times.

According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "...much of the stress that people feel doesn't come having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they start." I cringed when I first read this, because like so many people, I, too, get caught up in believing my stress comes from having too much to do. But after I thought about it, I concluded that I also say, "Yes!" when perhaps I should say, "Not this time!" or "Let me think about it and get back to you." AND, I hate to admit it... I don't always finish what I start.

By this, I mean, if my plan for the day includes a project, I am setting myself up for failure. This is true, not because I am incapable of completing an entire project, but rather because projects contain a broad range of tasks some of which may need to be spread out over days and weeks and months.

When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in list making and prioritization of time. But, more on priorities later. 

For now, one strategy to reduce stress, is to know the difference between a project and a task.

 A project is a multi-step idea or commitment with a specific outcome. 

 A task is one step and can be time limited. 

For example, the tending of my gardening is an ongoing, project with tasks added frequently. My garden does not care that Thanksgiving is weeks away and that I have shopping and decorating and travel plans to arrange and pumpkin bread to make!

And, I am not overwhelmed by my garden this time of year, because I am patient with the process and know that time spent there helps me stay calm and centered during the holidays. And, yes, in Southern California, roses are still in bloom, so there is work to be done outside.

There are days when I feel more motivated by a time limit, and will make the task time sensitive, such as "15 minutes deadheading roses."

There are days that I have more flexibility in my schedule and may choose to "deadhead flower beds backyard" however long it takes me. But, my garden tasks will be on the same list as my holiday tasks and my work tasks and, well, you get the idea.

Take a good, hard look at what you are asking of yourself, and then review again. Take the projects on your list and break them down into one step tasks that can be put on your calendar.  Tasks WILL get done, and by extension, so will your projects!