Many of us, myself included, can find it difficult to tackle a task or project because we have it in our heads that it is all or nothing. Sometimes “all” is so big and scary we find 100 other things to do instead.
Here are some things I have found myself doing to avoid starting something I am a bit anxious about:
- Cleaning out grout with a toothbrush
- Defuzzing a sweater one little fuzz ball at a time
- Rearranging the spice drawer
Have you been there too? Now granted, those three things needed to be done I am sure.
The question is, did I need to do them instead of starting that project or studying for a certification I knew I needed for my job?
This happens in career transitions all the time. It seems like a herculean event: update your resume and LinkedIn profile, identify contacts that you might want to talk to for more information or assistance, research companies; and the list could go on. The process can certainly appear arduous.
When I find myself in that place of dread and anxiety, I take a deep breath and think about how I can break down the task into chunks of manageable work.
This is how you can approach your career transition journey as well. It may be three or four steps or activities at a time. Not all 80 or 100 steps. Three or four – that is manageable and not nearly as scary as 80 or 100.
Here is what I recommend to help you move forward:
1) Create an outline of the major activities or steps you will need to do to complete the task at hand. You don’t need to go into minute detail. Just put down the basics.
You might want to go down one level in your outline so you don’t lose that brilliant thinking that is starting to flow. Make sure you list tasks in the order they need to happen to claim overall success. There will be dependencies, and you want to be sure to reflect them.
2) Estimate how many hours (or days) you think each of those significant tasks might take given dependencies on others, your existing commitments, etc. Be realistic. It isn’t about being a hero but don’t pad the time so that you will never reach the end game.
3) Select three or four tasks from the outline based on the time estimates and the dependencies you have laid out. Create a calendar of major milestones and criteria for completion for that group.
Now you have a manageable set of tasks to conquer and milestones you can track against. If you can, put together the entire timeline so you can see the project in its entirety.
4) Start to tackle the groupings of tasks and monitoring your progress. Move from one set of manageable tasks to the next as you complete them. After you complete each set of tasks, you will see how you are moving closer to the end game. You will be able to see your progress and celebrate your forward momentum.
By setting smaller-scale goals, the overall effort is less scary and will, in the long run, get done.
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