Simply Walk into Mordor

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Our mountain of tasks won’t erode itself.

But crossing that mountain might seem like an arduous quest, the mountain perpetually casting its dominating shadow over our steps, permeating our days with its sinister, unrelenting weight. It can quickly overwhelm us, rumbling about what needs to be done today, or even just this morning: get the kids ready for school, gas up the car, stop at the store—coffee! We forgot to brew coffee!

Then morning is past, yet the looming shadow continues to haunt our days, whispering warnings of all that must be accomplished today at work, this evening at home—and let’s not forget about next week’s meeting—and what about that appointment we’ve been putting off?

The quest along the menacing mountain of tasks might seem riddled by sudden storms and avalanches. Craig Jarrow, founder of Time Management Ninja, recommends this treacherous terrain be conquered one day at a time. Jarrow explains that by focusing only on what needs to be accomplished today we can outmaneuver the shadow of stress.

Pick from the list of tasks those items that can be handled today and concentrate only on those. Don’t worry about next week’s tasks—we’ll get to them! Jarrow further observes that by supplementing a To-Do List with a Done List, we can readily measure our progress along the mountain.

Saying that we’ll tackle our entire task list in a single day–while optimistic–just isn’t realistic. Build strategy not around time spent on the quest, but around steps taken. Don’t ask “How long did I work on this today?” Ask, “What did I accomplish today?”

In this TED Talk, Strategy Consultant Stephen Duneier explains that our ability to conquer colossal challenges is shaped by our approach. Duneier similarly supports the tactic of divide and conquer. Don’t run at the mountain head-on. Instead, traverse the path with planning and precision–break up the sum of tasks into smaller, more manageable segments.

Today, map out a list of objectives. Organize them by importance or urgency. If we can get many small tasks out of the way today, that might enable us to focus on bigger items tomorrow. Day by day, one step at a time, we’ll reach the mountaintop.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
– Confucius

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