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An Important Distinction: Tasks vs. Projects

taskvsproject

Ever since I started preparing for my class on getting more done, I’ve been obsessed with what holds people back from doing what they want to do, or feeling good about their workday.

One of the biggest frustrations people have is that they just can't seem to get through their To Do list, no matter how hard they seem to focus.

After hearing this again and again, and looking close at what they actually PUT on their To Do list, I think I've discovered the problem:

There is a difference between tasks and projects.

A BIG DIFFERENCE.

It’s the difference between you feeling awesome and you feeling awful.

I go into detail about that distinction in my class, but I want to make sure you *get* it.  No matter what system or process you use, you need to distinguish between a Project and a Task.  

 

The difference between Tasks and Projects:

A task is a single thing that you can do in one session. A task might be labeling your products or making a single item.
A project is bigger and includes multiple tasks. It might be designing and printing new labels, or making enough items for a craft show.
(Answering a few emails: a task. Getting to Inbox Zero from Inbox Million: a project)

 

This is where a lot of people get overwhelmed. They try to work on big projects, without breaking them down into tasks. And for some people, this works. They don't have to think through breaking it down, their brain does it automatically. But for many makers and creatives, you can only see the big project and try to tackle it all at once. This is a recipe for overwhelm and feeling bad about your workday.

The solution: Just recognize the distinction!

Look at your list right now – is it full of projects?

Take a minute and break each project into its tasks!

P.S. If you want to be sure that you're breaking down the most important projects (the ones that will move you towards your bigger goal) into tasks, and that you actually DO all the tasks, check out the Map Making Guide. It walks you through this process, and includes an e-course, so you're prompted to work towards it, a bit at a time, over the course of a week.

Making the imaginary real

Do you ever get really excited about something and then…not do it?

I'm not talking about when long projects drag on. I'm talking about when you get so excited about something, that you can't stop thinking about it while you wash the dishes or walk the dog or drink your first cup of coffee.

And then you sit down to work and…
You check your email.
You write that guest post.
You answer a few questions and schedule a few tweets.

But you're still! so excited! about the project!
But…you're not working on it?

That happens to me too.
In fact, it's happening to me right now.

I'm working on a Holiday Sanity Playbook (it's based on this annual, beloved class). And it's the most excited I've been about anything in a long time. It's going to come with stickers. And ribbon. In your mailbox (if you're into that.)

But…
I'm not working on it right now.
I'm writing this, because I realized I was doing everything else, instead of working on it.

And I know you do the same thing, too.
You have a fabulous idea for a new line, a new business card, a new story.
But instead, you answer questions, pack orders, make another thing.

It's not that you're procrastinating work…it's that you're savoring the perfect thing.
You see, while my idea is still in my mind – it's perfect. It's lovely, exciting, delicious and…imaginary. Imaginary things are perfect because the real world hasn't spoiled them. My imaginary Prince Charming didn't leave his socks around the house. My imaginary home never smelled like onions and garlic after I made dinner (it smelled like chocolate chip cookies and chai lattes). And my imaginary Playbook is clever, hilarious, colorful and gives each reader exactly what they need.
But no one can enjoy my imaginary life, so I have to make it real. I marry the guy with the socks because he's hilarious and adorable. I rent the tiny house because it has great light. And I make the real life product because it will help real people, not just imaginary ones.

In the process of bringing it into the world, it'll lose some of its luster.
I won't find the right word.
I'll argue for far too long with Photoshop.
I'll discover I printed something upside down.

But it will exist. And a real chocolate chip cookie tastes far better than an imaginary one.
Just acknowledging this: that I love it so much I want it to perfect helps. Just noticing that I am putting it off because I love it so much helps.
In fact, I think I'm ready to work on it!

What are you imagining today? What tasty thing wants you to whip it up and put it in the (metaphorical) oven.
Why haven't you? What are you afraid of getting not-quite-right?