One of the biggest productivity roadblocks is the failure to differentiate between projects and tasks. When projects get put on our to-do lists, our brains become overwhelmed, and we don’t activate.
How do we differentiate between projects and tasks?
Let’s use paying our taxes as an example. This time of year, “Pay Taxes” is an action item on many of our to-do lists; however, it is something that often gets procrastinated. Why is that? “Pay Taxes” is actually a project, not a single action item. To make measurable progress on a project, we need to break it into simple, manageable tasks.
A project will have multiple steps and milestones. A task is a single action that can be done in a short-ish period of time.
If we were to break down “Pay Taxes” into tasks, here’s what it may look like:
- Gather tax receipts.
- Organize receipts.
- Determine whether to pay for preparation or prepare them yourself.
- If hiring preparation:
- Find options via networks.
- Check qualifications.
- Check history (i.e., Better Business Bureau).
- Check availability.
- Ensure the preparer can e-file.
- Ask about fees.
- Ask about audit recourse.
- Make an appointment to drop off documents
- Make an appointment to review/file taxes.
- If preparing them yourself:
- Decide if you are filling out forms manually or electronically.
- Set aside time to prepare taxes.
- Set aside time to double-check/review before filing.
As you can see in this example, “Pay Taxes” is a project requiring up to 12 steps/decisions/questions along the way. So it’s no wonder why it is hard to activate on “Pay Taxes” if that’s what we see on our to-do list for the day. However, if we see “gather tax receipts” on our to-do list, we can wrap our heads around that and probably make some progress.
When you look at your to-do list, how many of them have you procrastinated because they are actually projects, not tasks? If that’s the case, the best thing you can do is put “Mind-map Paying Taxes” on your to-do list.
Mind-mapping will help break projects down into simple, doable steps giving you a better opportunity for completion and success.
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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