Tackling Hard Tasks

By Leo Babauta

Generally we avoid hard tasks, putting them off while we either do easier tasks or distract ourselves. This is understandable, as a hard task might feel daunting or overwhelming, but spending our hours on urgent but easy tasks vs. difficult but important tasks is generally a costly choice.

So let’s talk for a minute about hard tasks. If we can focus on them and get them done, we can have a greater impact in a fraction the time.​​​​

The reason we tend to avoid hard tasks is usually because they are daunting – filled with uncertainty and filled with lots of sub-tasks to the point of being overwhelming. We also fear failing at them.

So what I’ve found to help are things people know but often dismiss:

  1. Do a small bit of the bigger task. People dismiss this but underestimate how powerful it can be. Have a big report to do? Just do the first 2 paragraphs. It increases your ability to tackle the hard task by a hundred fold, because you’re much much more likely to start, and once you start, you’re much much more likely to take on the next small bit.
  2. Get into the practice of choosing and trusting.​​​​​​ If a decision freezes you up, you’ll likely stop doing the hard task. So don’t let yourself freeze up – just choose, and trust that you made a decent choice, or that you’ll be able to deal with whatever comes. This becomes a freeing practice, because you can just choose, choose, choose, and trust yourself without fretting too much. Choose quickly, move on, repeat.
  3. Think of “failing” as “learning.” When we think of the possibility of failing at something, we usually make that to mean something bad about us – we are inadequate, stupid, unworthy. But what if we frame it as part of the learning process, meaning nothing about us and everything about what we might learn? Let this free us.

These take practice. Start with the first item, and get into the practice of focusing on hard tasks in small bits. The amount of hard but important tasks you’re going to start crushing will be staggering.