How can I get myself to take action on certain tasks? Mental block or information overload?

So I have tasks in Asana that seemed to be a little organized. For some reason I can’t get myself to do the tasks. I’m not sure if it’s because of lack of information or information overload. Probably both. All I know is I’m not taking action and doing.

Also, I feel like I might be putting too many tasks in the My tasks which gets clogged up then I don’t do anything. It drags over to the next day which I change the date to tell myself I will. Then another day goes by and not much got accomplished.

I’m not sure if the projects are not organized enough or I’m just bogged down with information to even know where to start.

Has anyone experienced this situation before??

3 Likes

Hi @Ethan_Schneider,

When rescheduling tasks, I would recommend spreading them over a couple of days as automatically rescheduling for the next day might not always be achievable! Blocking and allocating some time in my calendar really helped me in the past completing tasks that I kept pushing back,

If you feel some tasks have too much info, try and break them down in actionable subtasks, or use comments to work with your colleagues to redefine what you’re trying to achieve. If on the opposite you’re missing information, don’t hesitate to ask questions to the person who assigned you a task!

Hope this helps!

3 Likes

I went to find a post I made several weeks ago to show how I switched to using Calendar View for My Tasks, and how much it has helped me… and I found that the response was to an earlier post from you!

I feel your pain - some of what your experiencing is larger than an Asana issue. But I will re-share my earlier comment about using Calendar View to help prioritize the day.

3 Likes

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by too much to do. A good idea is to size your tasks and then time block them on your calendar. you can also use https://asanadaily.com/ as a way to see your task distribution. its a very simple tool but helps to distribute the task over a week.

Another reason we sometimes do not act on tasks is that we do not know what the next action is to take. Open a task and then click Tab+X and open the focus mode. This will help to focus on this task. then try to clarify what the next action is if you can only spent time on this task for eg 1 hour. If you do not know what the next action is then the next action is clarify the next action for this tasks. You can then decide to do that there and then or defer it to another date.

6 Likes

That’s a great video - looks like a good product, I’ll have to check it out.

@Ethan_Schneider - Paul is hitting on something super helpful that pertains to a common struggle that you referenced in your earlier post, which is when Tasks are too vague and broad. I find the more specific and granular I can get with Tasks, the better. It does add a lot of Tasks, but they’re clear and do-able.

3 Likes

Beside scheduling, use section to segregate the tasks, and Tags to classify them, and ask yourself, how I want to start my day and with what, example:

  • first half of the day to resolve/complete tasks with section important with urgent tags
  • second half of the day the remaining tasks.

For tasks that you cannot complete ask for resources or escalate, other tasks just follow up, at both cases you must record the history for yourself and others at the task itself

Good luck

What’s keeping you from doing the tasks? To me, that’s the key. Are there other things that have to happen first before you can do one of these tasks that keeps hanging around? If so, think through what these tasks are and add them to your list. You want the tasks to be worded so clearly that you know exactly what to do and can’t wait to jump in. When your list is as appealing as the next YouTube video, you have hit a home run.

Spend some time clearing out your “Today.” Leave yourself with a “Today” that is truly doable. In the evening, look at the “Upcoming” to see what you may want to drag into “Today.” Each week, look at “Later” to see what you want to drag into “Upcoming.” Each week, take a good hard look at what has been in “Today” all week long. Reword, postpone…something so that it doesn’t continue to sit there.

Someone else suggested creating suggestions. That will allow you segment “Today” into things for the morning, afternoon, evening, etc.

2 Likes

I go through a similar issue getting overwhelmed with too much tasks
I embraced the sub tasks methodology, also I keep things organized in projects and sections so I can see how each task is part of something, inside each of those I break the activity down to subtasks for each part of that activity, this way I feel I can see the progress more clearly.

I actually don’t visit the my tasks section that often anymore, I go directly to the project I’m working on

I’m a small nonprofit, so I have like 2000 tasks to do before the end of the year! LOL Never going to happen. But, take it one tasks at a time and try to get it done!

Asana is a great tool, to support you and your processes, but it is not itself a process…

So I generally use Getting Things Done (GTD) to organize myself. Some of the key insights from GTD:

  • Break larger nebulous tasks into concrete things that you can actually do.
  • Separate things that NEED to be done on a specific date/time from those that you need to do, but can do any time. Keep your calendar sacred.
  • Separate tasks by context. These things I can do when I’m at the computer, these things I can do when I’m at home, these are errands to run.

One of the biggest things I’ve found is to separate deciding what I’m going to do from the doing. I have a bunch of tasks that I’m trying to get done day-to-day, many are recurring on some schedule, some daily, some weekly, some odd or longer. But some are just “as soon as I can”. Before I start on my tasks, I review them, mentally evaluate and estimate the time, and then sort them (based on some criteria: proximity, convenience, importance, etc). If I don’t think i can get them all done, I renegotiate with myself when I can. Sometimes that means moving to another day, sometimes that means skipping it this time. But it’s deliberate.

Once I’ve done the sorting and re-negotiating, then I just plow through them, in order. I don’t think about “Ugh, I really don’t want to do this…”, I just trust the system and the negotiations I’ve already done.

If you have a lot of tasks, you’ll probably want to separate them into a “today” section and one or more other sections. I typically have a “dates” section, for tasks that I intend to do on a specific date, a section for “this week”, and a “someday/maybe”, among some others.

Sometimes the best laid plans still don’t work out and at (for example) 8pm I’ve still got too much to do, I’ll renegotiate with myself and decide what I will or wont get done today afterall. Building up my ability to commit to myself is a skill I’ve really needed to work on, which is like any other skill, the more you use it, the better you get at it.

But it’s important to start light. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to cook 3 meals a day, work out every day for an hour, sleep 8 hours a night, do 10 things off your todo list… it’s a recipe for failure. We often need success spirals, where we are successful at building a new habit, which gives us confidence to add another new habit/behavior.

So with all this, keep in mind, you aren’t currently getting to all of your tasks, regardless of how “important” you may think they all are. So picking some and making progress on them is a significant step up from where you are today. So it’s entirely okay to not be perfect in your decisions. Focus on improvement, rather than perfection. If you are actually regularly getting some tasks done and whittling away at the mountain, THEN you can try to incorporate a better process for prioritizing. Be kind to yourself.

I love GTD (by David Allen), but there are some things that doesn’t solve, so while I recommend reading the book, that probably won’t be a cure. Another place I’d recommend is lesswrong.org. The community there covers a lot of different topics, but a recurring theme is how to motivate yourself (with a focus on science, habits, and mind hacks).

Good luck, it’s a complicated topic but super important.

1 Like

Oh, and one other hack.

When I have a bunch of things to do, and plenty of time to do them, I will set a timer for 30-45 minutes and work on tasks those tasks, until the timer goes off. Then I set another timer for 15 minutes and reward myself (sometimes it’s watching TV, playing a videogame, reading, whatever). Repeat. It’s critical that you respect the timer. As soon as the timer goes off, drop what you’re doing and do the other thing!

When I’ve done that for a whole afternoon, I feel super satisfied, I’ve gotten to screw around for a couple hours and I’ve been super productive!

2 Likes

I always start the description of my tasks with an actionable verb, e.g. “Print…”, “Generate…”, “Draft…”, “Ask…”, etc. If I find myself delaying the task, it’s usually because the action is too vague or not distilled into its components, so I then rewrite what I need to do so I can start working on it.

3 Likes

I try to HIDE as many tasks as possible from my personal to-do list to focus more. Use the “Upcoming” (Tab-U) and “Later” (Tab-L) features for that.

Then each morning I pick 1-3 tasks that I really want to work on and put them in a section labeled “Focus” and all my other tasks are under a section called “Next up.”

Then try to take the hardest task and do it first in your day, just get it done. That will make the other tasks seem easier and you won’t procrastinate that hard task.

If you happen to get your tasks done for the day just move up a few more tasks to your “Focus” section.

Lastly, since I hide most of my later tasks. It’s important to use Start Dates to remind myself when I need to start working on a task.

1 Like

I use the “assign” (to Me) only for Tasks I want to currently work on. All other tasks will stay on the list with its Project until I’m ready. I also don’t use due dates except in extreme cases. The assign feature is what populates your My Task list.

Such a great tip! I stress this with our teams starting in Asana… that Tasks should start with VERBs! It is so much clearer, but you’re right, it also forces you to break large vague tasks into actual actions, simply by saying “what verb do I start with?” Great tip!

Here’s another little hack/tip based on some of the comments here: when it comes to Tasks that I need to do, perhaps in the near future, but they don’t have a concrete “due date”, I created a tag in Asana labeled TBD and if I don’t want to put a Due Date on something, but I don’t want it to get lost and just disappear (I have maybe 1000s of Tasks assigned to me), then I tag it TBD. Then, when I’m organizing my work for a given day or week, I have a saved Report simply showing anything tagged “TBD”. I then slot them into my day/week and remove the tag.

1 Like

Also have a look at the new tool from @Bastien_Siebman https://minimalist-work.com/asana/my-tasks-cleaner