Tuesday, November 3, 2009


There are days when I walk into work and have a whole lot of different things that need doing, none of them short. A typical list would look like:
- reinstall an object store (1 hour)
- finalize a task list (45 min, and needs people)
- run a scanner utility against a test data set to gather a baseline (2 hours)
- write up how to do a big configuration I've been working on (3 hours)
- provide feedback on a document (1 hour or so)

And I don't want to start any of 'em because that means I'm not making progress on the others! This is a form of paralysis. Fortunately, it's mild.

There's only one way I know to get out of it, and that's to write down my task list for the day, pick one, and start. It doesn't matter which one I pick, as long as it's one single item.

In this case, I invoked my particular prioritization method:
  • first the stuff that's blocking other people
  • then the stuff I'm going to forget if I don't do
  • then the stuff that others are waiting for but not blocked by
  • then everything else.
In this case, I did the feedback on the document, followed by the task list (also needed by others). After that, I did the configuration writeup, and then started on the scanner utility (and then the day was over!).

Does this ever happen to you? How do you deal with the "too much to do to even get started" problem?


  1. Catherine,

    Nice time management advice. Thanks.

    - Justin

  2. Hi Catherine,

    I think you do it great.

    I'd like to share a couple of my tricks.

    * Splitting of big tasks into phases. This way I can provide a response to people faster and also it lowers the overall priority of the task.

    * For continuous tasks (over 2 hours) I take a piece of time (10-15 minutes) hourly to work on another short task.

    Thank you,
    Albert Gareev