I was at my vehicle service department recently when I saw that the cashier had several massive stacks of documents behind her. I asked her what they were, and she told me they were work orders that needed to be processed.
I mentioned how that looked like a daunting task and she said that it was. She then mentioned that two other ladies helped as well when they had some spare time and they all hated the job.
Perhaps you have been in a similar situation? You have a task that seems insurmountable and you hate doing it. We call that overwhelming work and we naturally hate doing it.
One of the reasons we hate doing it is because it seems thankless and endless and as hard as we seem to work we get little sense of accomplishment from all our hard work regardless of how diligently we apply ourselves.
Remember, that at the end of the day most of us just want to hear a “well done” from the boss so that we can go home feeling satisfied that our work was appreciated and meaningful, or at least see that we have accomplished something worthwhile; hard to do with an overwhelming number of massive stacks of work.
There are two techniques that can help us with this and make the task more enjoyable along the way.
The first one is chunking. In the case of the lady at the service department rather than her taking the first paper from one of the massive stacks and starting to process it, she could take a few minutes to organize the stacks of paper into smaller chunks (piles) of similar category such as week or month or even day.
Once the documents are organized into smaller chunks, it would not be too difficult to look at those chunks and assess what is a reasonable size of stack to deal with in a day. Now the lady could take that day sized stack and split it into two, one for the morning and one for the afternoon.
The task is to just start processing work on that smaller morning chunk and apply the second technique throughout the morning which is the Pomodoro technique.
Pomodoro is the Italian word for “tomato.” The story goes that a man called Francesco Cirillo, came up with the technique using one of those plastic tomato shaped kitchen timers.
Anyway, the key is that you set the timer for 20 minutes and work solidly on your task without interruption. Of course, you must let your coworkers know not to interrupt and remember to set your phone to voice mail and close out Facebook etc.
At the end of the 20-minute work spell you take a five minute break to get water, or send a tweet or whatever but when the buzzer goes at the end of the five minute break it is back to focused work for another 20 minute “Pomodoro” There are a number of apps out there and some you can download for free directly onto your computer or phone as the case may be.
The benefit is that at the end of the morning and again at the end of the day you can see some accomplishment and get the feeling of moving forward thanks to using a simple timer and a system.
If you use the timer on your phone you can set it to for any time, you choose. Some people use 20 minutes with a five-minute break and some choose 25 minutes with a five-minute break. The time settings should suit you and your environment.
If you are a disciplined and focused worker, then this may not be the instrument for you because you are already productive.
However, for those that struggle staying on task, breaking the work day into these smaller units can be really effective by improving productivity and how the worker feels about the task.