A couple of years after our weeding, my wife and I went to Texas to visit some family of hers (and now mine) and spend Thanksgiving with this part of the family I hadn’t gotten to know much given we live in California. This was a family reunion that allowed me the opportunity to get to know many family members. While talking to one of her uncles, I learned that he was a very successful vice president of a large U.S medical device company. While further inquiring about his background I learned that he had not only accomplished many great things professionally but had also heavily invested in his education (one bachelor’s degree, four master’s degree, and one doctor degree). I know, it sounds crazy… As I approach the end of my first master’s degree, I can only imagine the number of hours he spent reading, writing, researching, and studying in order to acquire so many degrees in the fields of chemical engineering and engineering management. I then inquired “how did you do it?How did you acquire so many degrees, while having a successful business life and a family” He thought about it for a second or two and replied: “By doing one thing at a time.”
When you procrastinate about cleaning your own house or avoid facing that pile of laundry that has been sitting in the laundry room for the past two weeks, it is often because we think about the task as a whole. We might think: “it’s going to take the whole day to wash all of those clothes.” Yes, it likely will if you sit there and wait, BUT it will only take one hour to do one load of washing and one load of drying. We tend to think about tasks not as individual activities, but as a whole job, as if once we started doing laundry you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the laundry room until every single piece of clothing was washed, dried and folded. If we tackled our tasks by breaking it down into smaller assignments, we would not only avoid procrastination, but also be much more effective in starting and finishing something.
It is a fact that setting goals that are challenging, but attainable is a much more efficient way to motivate employees in the workplace. The same strategy should be used in our personal and professional life. If someone told every engineer or doctor how many mathematical problems or medical books they would have to solve and read in order to acquire their degree, we would have an even smaller number of engineers and doctors graduating every year. But, by segmenting each step of their education in weeks, months, and semesters, students are able to “endure” the arduous journey of becoming medical doctors and engineers.
This same concept can and should be applied in business. In sales, aggressive targets are given to sales individuals. It can be intimidating or even discouraging to think that one person is required to make X amount of calls, sell X number of products, or convert X number of clients. But, by breaking these ambitious goals into steps / sections (our uncle calls it hoops), you quickly realize that you can indeed achieve these goals by jumping through one hoop at a time.
Even though this conversation happened years ago, I still relate to it in my daily routine. We are all busy, we all have “too many” things on our plate, and it is very overwhelming to even think about how we are going to do everything we want to do in the limited amount of time we have. We all get this feeling that we are simply tacking too much at times. Perhaps at times we are, but before you decide to give up on your goal (s), try to follow tour uncle’s tip and just tackle one task at a time.
What are some tips you find helpful when facing large projects and goals? Does doing one thing at a time work for you?
Because you need lots of energy for tackling long and challenging projects, check out this Brazilian Açai Bowl recipe from “The Spruce Eats”: https://www.thespruceeats.com/brazilian-bowl-acai-na-tigela-3029431