Mountains or molehills?

What tricks do you use when confronted by a mountain?  How do you convert it into a molehill?

Joe Ely has a simple observation about dealing with what looked like an insurmountable problem: look at it differently.

Confronted with a soul-suckingly deep pile of email in my in-box yesterday, I felt some level of despair. ... Rather than looking at the inbox with its default listing of most recent email first, resort the pile. Sort it alphabetically by Subject. Sort it by sender. Reverse sort it by sender. Anything. Make the pile look different.

I had this problem when I was in school and writing long papers. I didn't have the knowledge / insight / experience to break it into chunks or plan it logically. I just stared at the big mountain of what I thought it would take and couldn't move.

This isn't a new idea (he said that he learned it years ago), but it is always a good reminder. Don't get overwhelmed by the size or scope of your current problem. Step back, look at it sideways. Go outside and look at it under a tree. Don't look at it at all for a while. Ask someone else for their input.

This applies to group work and group projects just as much as it does to individual work.  If you can't figure it out yourselves, find another way to look at it.

1 Comment(s)

The technique I've used to deal with a large volume of unread email in Gmail was to successively apply time-based filters to the inbox.

First, filter all email received within 1 day of today — and deal with it. You get the immediate gratification of achieving an 'empty' inbox.

Once you've cleared your 'Today' inbox, set the filter to within 2 days of today. Rinse and repeat.

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