I had to have the “tough love” talk with a client that I am coaching about his dissertation. Each week, we talk about tasks that should be done and too many weeks went by when I was having the same conversation over and over. It seems that the problem boiled down to the fact that all the tasks were small, therefore, it seemed like no big deal to push them off a day or two – or ten. We talked about the implication that each delay caused, and, as we plotted the calendar, he realized that the targeted graduation date was at risk unless he took the little tasks more seriously.

The dissertation process is similar to so many other things where a big project is broken into hundreds of smaller tasks. In fact, many time management experts recommend that specific strategy. The problem comes in when those little things become too easy to put off. Eventually, a bottleneck ensues, and no matter how small the tasks, there are just too many of them to finish in the allotted time.

It happens when getting ready for a board meeting, preparing for the holidays, writing a grant, submitting an RFP or leaving on a major trip. All the little things become a big thing as they back up and get condensed into shorter and shorter time frames.

Don’t dismiss the minor things on your to-do list if they are the initial steps to making a big thing happen. The importance of a task is not always proportionate to its size.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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