Getting Lost in the Tasks

Posted by bob on July 4, 2018

Despite my best intentions, I sometimes find myself losing track of the big picture.  In short, I get lost in the smallest tasks.

I recently fell into a trap of my own choices.  I wanted to repair and improve one small area of our house.  The work was described by the material vendors as an easy task.  The tools required were common and I already owned most of them. 

Then reality set in.  The simple task exploded into dozens of additional sub-tasks.  My planning was extensive, but naïve—I simply had never done some of these things before.  Perhaps I should have “called the guy.”

It can be very difficult to do, but you need to force yourself to occasionally lift your head up from the (smaller) tasks and scan far ahead to fix your path back onto your bigger goals.

Here is a little analogy.  Perhaps you can see a mountain far in the distance, and you have set a major goal to walk to that mountain.  The mountain is a long way from you, and getting to it will be a major accomplishment.  As you follow the road (or path or maybe you are making a new path) you will quickly become focused on overcoming small and large obstacles in your way.  Maybe a tree has fallen across the path.  Do you climb over, dig under, or walk around it?  Maybe a stream blocks the way.  Do you swim across or stop to build a raft or boat?  You get hungry.  Did you plan ahead, or do you need to stop and find some food?  You can probably see how easy it is to get lost in the tasks required to accomplish the goal.

Our little example also teaches us the value of planning.  If this trip will take many days, you need to plan to bring some shelter from bad weather.  You need to worry about where you will sleep and how you will take care of your basic health and hygiene.  It is also a good idea to have some emergency plans for things going wrong.  Stuff happens.

As I said before, sometimes you need to stop and lift up your vision.  Look for the higher goal. Think about the personal satisfaction you will feel from reaching that destination.  Think about how you will make use of that accomplishment; how you will leverage it towards finding and accomplishing bigger and better goals.  Will you remember that you made the trip?  Have you taken the extra effort to document the steps you took along the journey?  Right now, the words and pictures you need to explain the trip might seem completely redundant, because the experience is so fresh in your mind.  Yet experience teaches us that we all quickly forget the details.  And reviewing that documentation (reliving the journey) later can be almost as rewarding as the original adventure.

So please: make good plans.  Work hard on the tasks, but don’t get lost in them.  Write stuff down.  And occasionally, pick up your head and look at the horizon to make sure you are still heading where you thought you were going.  All of this effort will be worth it when you get there.