Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

I know that we’re all familiar with the horrible feeling of looking at something and saying, “It’s too much” or “I don’t even know where to start”. Whether it’s an assignment at work (welcome to my world), a household task (personally, I love to cook but always feel deflated when it’s time to clean up the kitchen), or a personal project (today I struggled to start writing this post), we often have a strong aversion to starting, and continuing, something that we know is going to take a lot of time and energy. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the big list that all I want to do is put it away and watch Netflix for five hours. 

Conventional wisdom says that you can’t get too focused on the details that you miss the whole, but sometimes it’s actually good to ignore the forest and focus on the trees. Simply shifting focus from the big task to the small task and thinking, “Yes, this is manageable. I can do this” is often enough to get us going. Here are a few reasons it’s sometimes good to forget about the forest for a while:

It keeps you moving forward

I can’t emphasize enough how much looking at the whole sometimes causes us to sabotage ourselves. It’s so easy, in the middle of a huge task, to find reasons to quit, take excessive breaks, or just sit there thinking about how hard it is. A tree by tree focus makes you more likely to start (and finish) something, because it seems much easier, and each tree is a step in the right direction. Each tree we tackle makes the next one seem more manageable, and reinforces the idea that we can do that because, after all, we just did this.

It allows for choice

Sometimes you have to do things in a linear fashion, but other times you’re able to pick and choose. Focusing on smaller tasks lets you ration your energy and decide what you feel capable of tackling right now. Do you need to take care of some of the simpler things to help you get into the groove? Should you do something difficult to get it out of the way and feel better about the whole process? If there’s something you’re particularly dreading, can you afford to wait on it so it isn’t crushing your overall motivation?

A lot of times getting started can be the hardest part, so accomplishing something, even something small and simple, can break the mental deadlock.

It provides feelings of accomplishment

I’ve written before about how small victories have a huge impact on our attitude and ability to keep going. With a focus on the trees, you dramatically increase your opportunities to feel accomplishment, which helps you feel better about the situation and increases your motivation.

Do you find yourself focusing more on the forest or the trees? How do you keep yourself moving forward?

16 thoughts on “To Do List Tip: Focus on the Trees

  1. Very insightful. I find taking a brain break is the best way to keep moving forward.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Definitely. That’s another thing I like about splitting up tasks-it makes it easy to take a break without losing flow.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. kagould17 says:

    So true, Amanda. Every insurmountable big project is nothing more than a series of very achievable tasks. By taking on one task at a time, we will be amazed at what we can accomplish. Hope all is well with you. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It’s well enough. There’s a lot going on, but I’m mostly keeping the plates spinning. Hope things are good with you.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Jeff Flesch says:

    As always, an excellent post. The ability to look, and create the whole, while also being keen, and working in, the fine-grain details is a very important skill set. Excellently written, Amanda. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thank you so much. I feel like everything’s a forest lately, so I’ve definitely had to concentrate on the details.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Jeff Flesch says:

        Welcome. Interesting, and I totally understand. I’ve actually scheduled myself a vision and strategy week once a month to ensure the “big thinking” keeps moving forward. Have a great week. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Jennie says:

    Wonderful post, Amanda. Look at the trees, not the forest.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I imagine that’s very important in your profession, Jennie. I hope your week is off to a great start.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Jennie says:

        Yes, it is very important. Trees have been a huge part of what children are enjoying this fall, as well.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Simon says:

    One foot in front the other, it often seems so hard but as you say it’s the starting that seems the hardest part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Absolutely. I usually find that it isn’t so bad once I get going.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Simon says:

        That’s the thing I try and remember. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Forest to set the goal, trees to get there. Thanks for this discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

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