Saturday, October 29, 2011

How do you go about eating an elephant?

Often I'm faced with a daunting task that I don't look forward to.  Maybe it's because it intimidates me in its complexity, or perhaps its  a task I've  never done before and there's a high risk of failure, or maybe it's jflat out boring.  I'm the sort of person who will procrastinate until the last minute, and then work in a blind panic, and let's face it, the sort of work that produces is subpar at best.

So how does one go about accomplishing an overwhelming assignment?  Well, if you've got a lot of willpower, you can just power on through it in one shot.  But if you're like the rest of the world, you might need a few tricks to make it easier.

1. Start early.  If you start early, you can work on it in managable increaments, alloting yourself plenty of time to rework portions that are't so hot.  You won't be burnt out by the time you finish, and you can really devote yourself to your project.
2. Surround yourself with people who have the work ethic you admire.  It's hard to work if your friends are all playing Pokemon and calling you over to check out Youtube videos of kittens.  Water seeks its own level, and if you associate with hard working people, eventually some of their good influence will rub off on you.  Just don't be a jerk and try to distract them.
3. Plan ahead.  The more work you do before starting, the more you can experiment and play around without worrying about ruining what you're working on.
4. Try to add elements that you enjoy drawing.  This will give you something to look forward to doing.
5. Just get started.  Break your task up into smaller, more managable parts, and pick the easiest.  It's much worse to procrastinate than to get the easy work done.
6. Reward yourself for work well done, don't just jump straight to the next task.  Go get an ice cream cone.  Stop for coffee.  Watch an episode of your favorite tv show, or just do a task you enjoy (like markering, for me).  You deserve a treat.
7. Work hard while you have momentum.  If you've gotten into 'the zone', there's no reason why you should force yourself out of that.  When I'm writing, I work best alone at home, where I can tune out distractions with no social ramifications.  Try to set up a workspace that works with your working habits.
8. Take breaks often.  Give yourself an opportunity to step away from your work, because you'll often figure out problems while you're doing something else.  One of my best problem solving times is after a good night's rest, while I lay in bed, and another is while I'm in the kitchen, cooking or doing the dishes.  Stepping away and doing something else gives my brain a chance to reset and see things at a different angle.
9. Don't psyche yourself out.  It's not as bad as it seems, and it doesnt have to be perfect.  Your goal is to please yourself and to learn something new, and as long as you're meeting those goals, it will be alright.

So the answer is: One bite at a time.

What's a task that you guys find daunting or that requires a little extra willpower to get done?