Spencer Carli

Is it a task or is it a project?

January 22, 2018

When 2018 started I took some time to look back at my journal entries from years prior.

In doing so I recognized that planning has always been a challenge of mine, at least as long as I’ve been doing a daily journal.

With that information in hand I decided that I wanted to change that this year. I took time to research different mindsets, techniques, and tools to aid me in this quest.

Now, I certainly haven’t found the system yet. I’m still sorting things out and frustrating myself in the process (which makes for good opportunities to teach myself to chill out).

We’re a few weeks into the year so I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few different techniques in planning my week.

Quick note: I spent some time at the very beginning of the year locking down meaningful quarterly goals, something I’ve never done before, and they’re helping me “measure” my week-to-week progress.

I’ve tried the following techniques so far:

  1. Plan the entire quarter down to every task, based on my quarterly goals
  2. Plan the week out by task
  3. Plan the week out by project

The first one didn’t work because there are too many unknowns. I’m starting to fill in gaps but, at that time, I just didn’t know enough to confidently put three months of plans down.

The second one lead to total overwhelm and putting way too much on my plate. I thought about each thing as a task and that brought the mindset that I can do multiple tasks in a day, regardless of size or complexity. Basically, I was weighing paying my credit card bill the same way I weighed writing a blog post. One takes a few minutes, the other takes hours. They’re not equal.

The third one is where I’m at right now. I’ve got my goals for the quarter. I’ve got a vague idea of the steps it will take me to accomplish that goal over the series of 3 months. Now, when I’m planning out my week, I’m thinking about each “thing” as a project… and I’m only allowed to have one project per day. So what’s that look like?

Let’s take writing a blog post for example. I’ll outline, draft, edit, and submit it to a publication. I might even put together a video for it and spend some time thinking about/planning my promotion. “Write blog post” isn’t a task — it’s a project.

Looking at my other example task, paying off my credit card, that’s a task. Rather than placing that as a task to do on Monday it’s part of my finances or admin project which will include similar tasks.

Batch tasking is no new concept — but it’s easily forgotten. When you’re planning your week think about what you need to do and question — is this a project or is this a task? Can you group related tasks together to make them a project?

Let yourself get in the flow of things rather than scattering unrelated things throughout the day.