Leap Year Lesson #64: Chunk It and Reward Yourself

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Time Management
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Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the amount of work ahead of you? It’s a discouraging feeling. You have a hard time being motivated or even knowing where to begin. A real danger for some when faced with this is that they procrastinate and make the problem even worse by eventually backing themselves into a time crunch as well.

As a knowledge worker, what backs up on me tends to be long to-do lists and inundated email inboxes requiring attention. The last few weeks have seen my work inbox swell to over 200 emails requiring something from me. I don’t even like my inbox to get to double digits in quantity of emails, so to measure in the hundreds is insane for me.

Today’s main task for me, then, was to tackle as many of these as possible. I knew I would need a break regularly to stay motivated and to feel like I was also getting other personal matters done, so I embarked on a very simple plan. I would handle 10 work emails and then do something not work related.

Attacking the job in smaller chunks and rewarding myself with something not work related gives me the ability to stay with the plan for a long time. So far, so good. Writing this blog post is, in fact, one of my reward breaks for having knocked off about 50 emails so far in the last several hours.

I remember doing the same many years ago in college. I loved playing the guitar and would easily have played it much more than I should with homework to do. So on many occasions I made a 15-minute guitar break my reward following an hour of study. It worked then. It works now – as long as you have some self-discipline and are willing to follow your own rules.

So next time you are faced with a long, daunting task, think of some brief reward you can give yourself, break the task up into short chunks, and then treat yourself to those rewards at the planned intervals. You’ll nibble away at that large beast of a project in no time.

Leap year lesson #64 is Chunk it and reward yourself.

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