Systems & Tips

Work Small; Don’t Hope in the Big Blocks of Time

 A Full Plate

There’s a trap that many people fall into. I know, because I’ve made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit.

You have a big block of available time coming up. Maybe it’s a break between semesters, a time when work is expected to slow down, or an extended vacation.

And you’re just sure that you’ll be able to get so much work done during that time.

But the break comes and goes, and the main accomplishment you have to show is a high level of frustration and disappointment.

There’s a better way.

It’s a Vicious Cycle

The steps to this frustration inducing process usually look like this:

  1. You put things off, hoping in that future block of time to allow you to finish everything up.
  2. As the break nears, your hope for the break shifts to anxiety at all you’ve planned to do.
  3. The block of time begins, and life comes crashing in. Things always take longer than you think. New urgent tasks pop up. Your stress rises.
  4. Your time is up, and you’re not at all pleased with the amount of work you’ve done. You’re disappointed in yourself.
  5. You tell yourself that you’ll do better next time.
  6. Repeat.

The True Problem

Some see the solution as really working hard during those big blocks of time. The problem, they say, was your laziness or disorganization.

But I don’t think that’s the main issue.

Have you ever been really hungry at a buffet and put more food on your plate than you could eat? The phrase goes that “your eyes were bigger than your stomach.”

The same is true in time management. It’s easy to add more tasks to your plate than you can reasonably handle.

And the problem with these big blocks of time is that by the time they’re gone and you realize you put too much on your plate, you may have a backlog of weeks and weeks of work left for you to do.

Slow and Steady

Instead, just make regular appointments and work at a more gradual pace.

Have a routine of cleaning your office once a week rather than trying to clean a filthy office one day out of every 4 months. Set aside a period of time daily or weekly to do all your filing and receipt entering instead of letting it pile up.

If you have a large task, like cleaning out your garage, work on it for 30 minutes every day. Or every other day.

You get the picture, I’m sure. The details may vary – it’s all about what works for you.


This slower, more regular schedule accomplishes a few things:

  1. You have the chance to review more regularly and make changes more regularly.

    You can realize after a few days that the project is going to take longer than you thought. Maybe you see that things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped and you’ll ditch the project altogether.

  2. You can tackle it with fresh energy each time.

    If I clean the garage in an entire day, I run low on physical energy during the middle. By working in short chunks, I don’t drain my energy as much.

    This is also true for mental energy as well as physical.

  3. You can benefit from the feeling of accomplishing something small.

    Every day you have the emotionally satisfying experience of getting something done on those critical projects.

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself being someone who piles up too much to do on those big blocks of time?

Photo Credit: ☻☺ (Creative Commons)

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