Break It Down

Break It Down

Don’t panic.  I am not asking you to breakdance!

As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Whether you are in the middle of a course, debating about learning something new, or daunted by the new school year, break it down.

Any project can be broken into more manageable bite-sized pieces that are not nearly so scary.

Hopefully, many of you have learned this in math class. Most math teachers are very good at helping students see how to “break down” a word problem into steps.  Once divided into smaller steps, you simply take one step at a time. Before you know it, you have solved a larger, more complicated looking problem – sometimes a problem you did not think you could handle at first.

Well, this method works for almost anything you want to learn or accomplish.  If you are daunted by an essay assignment, break it down into separate units.  Set aside time for each unit in your planner and begin on time.  Don’t wait!

(See the blog about procrastination:

For example, you can block off time in the following way:

Research, generate thesis and topic sentences, begin introduction, write supporting paragraph 1, write supporting paragraph 2, write supporting paragraph 3, conclusion, complete rough draft, proofread & edit, complete good draft.

Of course, not everyone will block their units in the same way or even in the same order.  The idea, however, is to generate sections that can be completed in a reasonable time frame.

Each one of the above steps is handled individually.  When you get to the last couple of steps, you will be looking at the whole essay, but you have already accomplished all the previous steps, so it isn’t so frightening or overwhelming.

If you have a major test or exam coming, separate your study times into blocks that determine not only time to be spent but material to be reviewed and practised (Don’t forget to practise.  Review alone is not enough.)

Even if you have a relatively short time period to prepare, set yourself smaller goals with short breaks in between.  These breaks can be used to get a snack, have a walk (even if that’s just pacing your room), and pat yourself on the back for completing the first step (or first few steps, depending on which stage you are at).

If you are reading a challenging text, take it in stages.  Look over the material briefly and plot out how much you can handle in one sitting.  Provide time for short breaks – but not distractions. Take notes.  Taking notes on small sections (not too small but not usually entire chapters either) can be a kind of separation from full-on reading as well.  Also, taking notes can calm you because you are accomplishing something tangible that you can point to and see is real.

Doing is believing.  The more you believe you can do it, the more you will accomplish which, in turn, will prove to yourself that you can do more!

With just a wee bit of planning, you can make your life easier, and the product you produce will be far better. 

So, don’t forget to break it down!

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