A simple approach to task or project overload

A simple approach to task or project overload

Did a huge task just land on your desk leaving you lost in limbo? Is there an important project where you don’t know how to begin? Do you feel the walls closing in and project overload panic starting to kick in?

First of all, breathe! Things are never as crazy as they seem at first glance, and even if they are…a simple solution can be expected.

We previously looked at an easy way to break your non-productivity chain and realized it is easier than expected. That quick solution was for those that know their tasks ahead and what should be done, yet can’t get themselves to start. In this post though, we’re looking into that one huge project that deserves your attention, but you don’t know how to approach it, how to start and its completion seems like a dream.

The good news? It may be a difficult task, but setting up the process is easier than you think; You may have a lot of work for the project itself, but you will know where to begin and will be able to foresee its completion.

The Project Overload Analogy

For example sake, I will use an overloaded kitchen sink as an analogy, brought to me from Oded Avital. He illustrates the crazy family dinner: you’ve just had your extended family over for a large holiday dinner, and your kitchen sink is overflowing with dishes, silverware, all your empty cooking pots and pans, cups, and depending on what you ate, a whole mess of leftovers, garbage and much more.

How will all these dishes get clean? A dishwasher alone isn’t the solution, nor can it even fit this entire mess that was used to feed 40+ individuals.

So where do I even begin?

I hope you can see the dirty and overwhelming picture in you mind. Granted, this is not a work related project, but the way you approach these two may be similar.

Clear up your task area

Whether you are getting ready to wash all of the dishes or build a yearly budget or begin to plan an event, you need a clean slate to start.

For the sink, you must create yourself a proper place to work. This will begin with clearing up the counter of all items which aren’t to be washed, so you may begin organizing the dishes which are to be washed.

Regarding your project, you need a clear mind, desktop and/or a clean page in front of you. Having this will allow you to improve focus on the project at hand, so you can at first begin preparing the next steps. In addition, you also need this clean sheet of paper or page for the brain dump, as to not miss details and requirements to aid in the project.

This first step is a foundation towards an organized and productive process.

Task brain dump

I cannot say it any other way except…use this time to write down ALL ideas, requirements, dates, people, etc. Add as much as you need, with as much detail, so both the logistics and creative minds don’t forget a thing.

Once it is all listed (you can add more items as they come to mind), begin categorizing all items of the list into appropriate categories. This differs from project and individual and can be fined tuned as well the next step.

You should now begin to have a clearer picture of your project.

As in your dirty dishes: when looking at your packed sink and counter, begin and organize all the dirty dishes in the approach that is efficient to start washing and clear them up. For example, stacking up all the plates on top of each other, from large on bottom to the small ones on top. It is simply utilizing your work area much more effectively, so you can then be much more efficient. You’re getting all the items in front, so you can then begin the plan of action.

Assess your restrictions or limitations

Are there any obstacles or restrictions beyond your control?

When washing the dishes, this could be dishwasher size, sink size, and even the size of the dish rack. If it is a limitation, then it will help you decide where to begin, as to utilize it properly. Maybe the plates should go into the washer, while the cups can be placed in the drying rack after they were washed…so you are ending up getting more washed, and also clearing up the work area as you progress.

In regards to your project, whatever it is, I am certain it has its specific restrictions that cannot be changed: the teammates needed, timetables, material, budget and tons of other constraints.

Listing all these areas allow you to get the big picture of the task, and when you begin planning for it, it will be much more organized and thus effective – doing the right things.

Breaking it up into smaller and digestible tasks

Now that we have all dishes stacked and grouped appropriately (yet piled up), we can actually begin with the separate tasks: plates and large-sized dishes are rinsed and placed in the dishwasher. If there is room for smaller plates, add them as well. If the dishwasher is packed and plates left over, then rinse and set them in their spot for the next round. The cups can also be washed accordingly and stacked in the rack. Do not all cups fit? then wash the ones where you may utilize space better…freeing up room to keep organizing/stacking any more dishes which are still in the sink or on the kitchen table or on the dining room table if this was an absolute huge family dinner.

You should probably know how to adapt this to your project. You have your timetables and restrictions, so you can start taking your categories and individual tasks from the brain dump and break them up into approachable tasks. As the timetables are in front of you as well, you can also begin prioritizing tasks per their reliance on others, their due dates and requisites.

In closing…

Unfortunately, I cannot handle your project for you (nor will you want me to), but the simple method detailed above can definitely help you approach project overload much better. You may now begin preparation more effectively, execute tasks more efficiently and reduce that stressed or overwhelmed feeling keeping you from trucking ahead.

Eran Abramson
Eran Abramson

Eran Abramson has vast background in entrepreneurship, marketing, and content and is an editorial contributor at Knowmail, while also contributing tech and industry related coverage at ReadWrite. VentureBeat, LifeHack, and more.