Projects tend to fall into different categories in our brains.
The super important and urgent projects that will get the adrenaline and motivation flowing (especially if you’ve put it off UNTIL it has become super urgent!
There are the passion projects that really excite and stimulate us, the ones that are fun, and the ‘work’ involved in them never feels like work at all.
And then there are projects that are boring, take a long time and are just never a top priority.
But they still have to get done someday…
These kinds of projects can really take up too much real estate in your head over time and give you that constant sense of “there is so much to do”. So identifying them and finally completing them can be incredibly freeing.
I’m going to show you a great strategy to help you tackle these kind of projects without too much difficulty. I can’t promise it will be fun, but you will get a very nice sense of satisfaction from doing it!
Your simple strategy to tackle large and boring projects
A great way to tackle these kind of projects is to spend a bit of time on it every day until it is finished.
If you try to tackle these kind of projects all in one day there might be so much resistance to getting started that you keep putting it off indefinitely.
Also, spending an entire day on something that doesn’t feel super important (especially when you do have important things on your plate) can feel very demoralizing and even create more stress. Having a good sense of accomplishment and forward progress at the end of each day is important to keep productivity momentum going.
Step 1: Choose your project
If you haven’t already done it, create a master list of all your open projects and tasks.
When you try to keep all your to-dos in your head, you are likely to forget some things, but more importantly, your brain will be constantly overwhelmed. Keeping a list outside your brain allows you to free up space to do the things rather than worry about them.
Go through your list of projects and choose one thing you’ have been meaning to do for a long time but keep pushing back because it is never THAT important.
The project should involve an activity that isn’t too mentally demanding . Anything that requires you to be in a very focused state or a lot of creativity needs a different strategy.
This strategy works extremely well for projects that you can easily get started with any time, such as sorting the files on your computer. You don’t need to spend any time preparing for this task, you just need to decide to start.
There are some projects are not very well suited for this strategy even though it might be a large and boring project. If there is a high cost for setup, such as painting a room (with all the preparation and clear up involved), it might be better to do it all in one go.
Some ideal projects include:
- Deleting and organizing files on your computer
- Going through old pictures and sorting them
- Decluttering a room, drawer or closet
- Sorting through papers
- Weeding out the garden
- Cleaning up your to-do list app
Step 2: Pick a time frame
Once you’ve chosen your task, set an amount of time you will work on that task each day.
Be mindful to not make the time frame too large:‘I’m going to spend 3h decluttering the house each day’. That will feel too overwhelming, and you’ll likely procrastinate even more!
Come up with a time that feels not too long but also allows you to make some decent progress on the project with each session.
Ideally a session can be done all in one go without the need for a break:
- “Clean out files from computer for 20min”
- “Declutter kitchen drawer for 5min”
- “Go through papers for 15min”
Pay attention to how you manage with the chosen time frame. If you notice that you are not doing the task every day, try making the time limit smaller. It could be that you’ve tried assigning too much time to a boring tasks, and so you’re resisting it because your brain doesn’t want to spend that much time on something boring.
Another problem with making the timeframe too large is that you might feel like you are spending too much time on something that is not that important. Which can add stress if you have a lot of things on your plate that ARE important. So watch out for any feeling of stress when doing your task.
Step 3: Pick a time to do your boring task
Finding the right time to do this task is important.
You don’t want to feel that this task is interfering with your important work. So you definitely don’t want to use up energy during your prime productive hours. This time is needed for your important, creative and demanding tasks.
If the task is not very mentally demanding (maybe even relaxing on some level) you can do it while you are taking a break from your other work.
If the task is physical, it might be good to do it when your energy dips (for many this is after lunch), so you can re-energise yourself while getting something done.
Research shows that scheduling a task for a specific time can increase the chances of getting it done. So experiment with scheduling the task for a specific time each day and trying to stick with it.
Alternatively, you can also couple the task to another activity. For example, you might decide to do this task right after you finished your lunch. The idea is to be specific about when you are doing the task.
Step 4: Do the task with a timer
When it is time to do the task, start a timer for the allotted time and get to it.
Making it more fun!
Mary Poppins taught us that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.
Finding ways to make a boring task fun can make it so much easier to complete.
Maybe you can combine the task with something enjoyable, such as listening to a podcast while you sort your files, or dancing to your favourite music as you declutter. One of the Amazing Marvin community members told me that she LOVES doing her housework as long as she can dance to her favourite rock music as she is doing it!
Another way to make the task more fun is to get competitive with yourself. How long a streak of this task can you build up? Maybe you can give yourself a reward after a certain number of streak days, so you’re celebrating the progress, rather than waiting till the end of the project to celebrate.
At least make sure to reward yourself mentally by taking time to acknowledge your accomplishment after the task is completed for the day. This will make it easier to do it again the next day as your brain will associate the task with a good emotion. And what feels good gets repeated.
How to set this up in Amazing Marvin:
You can manage this large and boring project (and all your other to-dos) with Amazing Marvin.
Set up your Project, and then inside the project, you can create a task called “Work on projectname for Xmin”.
Decide how long you will allocate to this, and put that time in the task title. You can click the time in the title to start a timer automatically, which comes in handy when it’s time to do the task.
Add a specific time in the title if you are planning to do this task at a specific time each day. You can also set up a reminder so you get notified at the set time.
Then turn this task into a daily recurring task (or have this repeat only on weekdays/weekends depending on the task).
Marvin will show you this task automatically every day in your daily list. You can then simply click the timer in the title to start the timer for the required time, and get started.
Enjoy the satisfaction of marking the task as complete at the end of your session (you can set it up so Marvin performs a dance for you in celebration) and enjoy knowing that you are one step closer to completion of this long, boring project!
Start your free 30 day trial of Amazing Marvin and let Marvin help you get this project done!
Also published on Medium.