Why are some tasks never done?
The sheer size of some tasks prevents them from being achieved.
The subway system in and around Boston is part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, MBTA or “T,” as Bostonians usually call it.
The T-metro system consists of several “color” lines – red, green, orange, blue and silver. In the late 1980s, I lived between Porter Square and Davis Square stations on the Red Line. Although my apartment was closer to Davis Square, I sometimes went down to Porter Square to get home a few minutes earlier.
Let me tell you a little bit about Porter Square T. This is a deep dungeon. There is a very long group of escalators carrying passengers between the level of the track and the level of the street. There are two long stairs next to the escalators. When in a normal building I have to choose between a staircase and an escalator to climb one or two floors, I feel ambivalent. I actually prefer the stairs, because everyone usually goes up the escalator. But when I leave T to Porter Square, I look at the stairs once and, of course, I prefer the escalator. Not that I couldn’t climb that ladder – I did it once or twice to prove to myself that I could.
Take, for example, the task of moving the mountain. In fact, it is a shame to think about such a task. You can get all the necessary earthmoving equipment and personnel, but if you do not overcome the frightening complexity of the task, workers, bulldozers and tow trucks will do nothing.
It’s a normal human inclination to be stunned by something big and look for the easiest way to do something.
Mathematician J. Cantor presented us with two kinds of infinity: counting and innumerable. I offer you two kinds of the impossible!
Some tasks seem complicated because of their size. Tasks are like mountains – insurmountable, unshakable. Can you take Mt. Everest? Do you see Mt. Everest?
Some tasks seem complicated because of their incredible complexity. Gordiev knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for a complex, persistent and often intractable problem solved by a bold move (“cut the Gordian knot”).
How to overcome a difficult task? How was Mt. Everest defeated?
On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New York and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal were the first to conquer Everest, Jomolungma, at an altitude of 90,028 feet for their people. The highest place in the world. Before Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the summit of Everest was invincible. Hilary and Norgay relied on the success of previous teams to reach the top.
Similarly, Alexander the Great untied the Gordian knot with one blow of his mighty sword. It was predicted that whoever untie the Gordians would become king of Asia.
In 333 BC, wintering in Gordium, Alexander tried to untie himself by marriage. When he could not find an end to untie the knot, he cut it in half with the stroke of his sword, getting the required ends (the so-called “Alexandria solution”). Alexander continued to conquer Asia, although the prophecy itself could be propaganda for him later.
Alexander considered his victory over Gordiev a knot the most decisive battle in which he had ever participated.
Alexander considered his victory over Gordiev a knot the most decisive battle in which he had ever participated. The biggest battle is in the mind. When you think that something is great and impossible, it becomes impossible. On the other hand, if you convince yourself that this can be achieved, you have won half the battle. To overcome the complexity, you need to resist it, reduce it and then win. The words “veni, vici, vidi” (I came, I saw, I won) are attributed to Julius Caesar. Paraphrase this as “veni, divisi, vidi” (I came, I split, I won) and you will win.
You can move one mountain of stones at a time. You can climb the highest mountain, overcoming a series of small targets. You can cut the Gordian knot with a bold touch. You can put the egg on its end by slightly breaking the shell.
You can perform complex tasks by doing one simple step at a time or taking bold, simple steps that destroy any complexity. When the task is too complex, it can be overwhelming. If you break it down into simple sub-tasking components, it seems more doable.
There are two levels of difficulty: the physical level at which agility and skills are required to complete the task, and the mental level at which intelligence and wisdom must be applied to complete the task.
Physical complexity, such as scaling or moving a mountain, can be controlled by the divide and conquer rule.
Mental complexity cannot be “broken.” It takes a revelation, a flash of inspiration to strike a bold but simple blow.
In the 1950s, George Miller formulated the “7– 2” difficulty rule. The rule states that the human brain cannot process more than 7 q/- 2 elements at a time. This is based on a study of short-term memory. People can only store 7 or two items in direct memory.
Based on the difficulty rule, a task with more than 7 steps can be considered difficult. Treat a complex task as a project. Divide the task into components. If the sub-task is complex enough in itself, repeat the process until the complexity disappears.
What are the components of the task? Although the division of the task depends on the task, there are characteristics common to all tasks. The following four methods can be used to distribute the most complex tasks:
- Rule three: everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. In any case, each task can be divided into three parts: the first steps, the last steps and the intermediate steps. This rule is recursive, so if any of these parts are still complex, it can be broken down into a head, body, tail, etc.
- Logical grouping: Related steps can be grouped together. For example, in the complex task of planning and organizing an event, all printing assignments can be combined, all design assignments can be grouped, all invitations and mailings can be collected, etc.
- Time interval units. One way to separate a task is to have units that take the same amount of time. We, the people, are very comfortable with a unit of time called an hour. That’s why we now have the concept of “temporary interval” units – units of work that take no more than an hour or fifteen minutes, depending on how you distribute tasks on your day.
Dividing a task into managed units not only reduces complexity, but also reduces the impact of the Parkinson’s Law (“Work grows to fill the available time”). If the work is small and short-lived, there is no room for expansion.