Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I purchased the 59 Seconds book I've heard so much about on here. I'm going through the Motivation section, specifically the goal writing. In thinking about this, I realized I have so many things I would like to accomplish. Things like moving to an apartment, learning to cook well, learning a new technology, exercising and losing weight, and more. Just thinking about all the things feels a little overwhelming, even when dividing them into subtasks. It all feels like a lot to keep track of.

share|improve this question

I'm not familiar with 59 seconds but the activities you named requires better organization and discipline than regular tasks. If you have a concrete goal to be reached say by the end of the year, you can estimate how many hours a week are required and arrange your schedule accordingly. What we're doing here is called breaking down a project in smaller tasks, which is the basics to both GTD and Pomodoro techniques.

Estimating can take some time if don't have a considerable experience in the area. In that case, don't bother being very accurate or it may consume a valuable time. Focus on setting specific goals concerning time and lenght of each individual task.


Search for a good cooking class nearby
from 7pm to 8pm - Sep 05

Schedule another search if needed or set the next step. This can be done for pretty much anything, from raising funds to buy an apartment - say 10% of your sallary - to losing weight - working out 3 times a week, 2 hours a day.

share|improve this answer
Thank you @Renan, that's exactly what 59 Seconds suggests I do, split up the overall goal into specific, concrete subtasks. I'm just finding it difficult because I have about 5 overall goals and each has about 4-5 subtasks, for about a total of 20 tasks. It seems a little too much and I don't think I'll be able to do it all concurrently. – Gabe Sep 5 '11 at 17:50
You need to consider preparing a timeline based on critical dates for each goal. Look at each goal and match it to a deadline. How soon do you have to be in a new apartment? Then back up from that date and schedule your tasks over that time period. Then look at your remaining goals in the same way and calendar the work required based on when each project is due. This should give you a more orderly approach towards achieving your goals. – bg2011 Sep 6 '11 at 12:20
@Gabe I suggest picking the easiest and a random other. Work hard to keep them on schedule and when you're ready, add more activities. The trouble you'll find implementing the first two will help you with the next ones. At the beginning, use your free time to try different productivity techniques. You'll need them to handle several goals later on. – Renan Sep 11 '11 at 20:27

I'm going to throw GTD at you. This space is too short to cover that in its entirety, but the short version is, for your concern, you should break down your targets into different horizons. The one's suggested by GTD are:

  • purpose and principles
  • vision
  • goals
  • areas of focus and responsibility
  • projects
  • next actions

And the GTD model then offers a way to organize that.

Of course, if you just write down two dozen "goals" and then don't know what to do with that, you'll be overwhelmed. It's just like someone having the neat idea of writing a "todo" list of 150 items and then feeling overwhelmed. You need to have something at the top that drives the goals (purpose, principles, vision) and something at the bottom that moves the goals forward and gets them done (projects, actions).

As an aside, I think not everything you listed as goals in your question are actually "goals" in this model. Some of them might be visions, some of them projects.

If you want to read up on that, I recommend David Allen's second book Making It All Work, which covers this aspect better than his first book Getting Things Done.

Alternatively, the even shorter version is, break your goals down into projects, break your projects down into actions. Don't worry, everyone will have a lot of those. Just make sure you clarify the actual actions, because you can't "do" a goal, but you can "do" an action.

share|improve this answer

I'm a little late to the party but I noticed something in your question I'd thought could be the crux of the issue. Was doing a search on this issue myself so I don't have this figured out, but I have an idea so let me know what you think.

You mentioned that you're breaking your goals into multiple tasks, which is great. I do this too, with wunderlist. Essentially it's 5 lists (my overall goals), and tasks within. I add to these lists every so often and eventually it gets overwhelming. I think the issue is that I have no idea which one to begin if I look at these lists. Like you said, there are 20+ tasks. Reading the other answers, I think everyone agrees that we need some time order to these tasks. If they occur one after another, you really shouldn't worry about any of the later ones, until after you worry about 1 or 2 that are the first steps of your goal. The tool that I used, Wunderlist, is really not good for this. Because whenever I get new ideas, and add them to the list, they get added to the top, and lose track of my old ones.

I recommend a tool (if you're using an app, program, or even text files to track this) that helps you keep the order of the list refreshed every time, so that the tasks of immediate concern are at the top. You might think of new things from time to time, and they might go on the top, middle, or end, but make sure they are ordered. This way when you look at your 5 overarching goals, you only should focus on the 5 top tasks.

Hopefully this makes it a little less overwhelming, for you and me both. I'm going to try this out myself now. Good luck.

share|improve this answer
one such tool is the MYN "Master Your (Workday) Now"* Method by Michael Linenberger (see ) One of its essentials is sorting the tasks according to their "start date" with the most recent first. I can highly recommend his book. There is also a reduced version of this method, called "The One Minute to do list", which is described in a free ebook: Note: I'm not affiliated in any way with this company, just a "fan". :-) – MostlyHarmless Jan 20 '14 at 8:21
Is there an app/program/website that he recommends to use for sorting tasks? – imagineerThis Jan 20 '14 at 17:00
Originally, his first book was called "Total workday control" and the method was described with a special setup with MS Outlook. Today he recommends Toodledo, but he also wrote a new edition of the book which explains in detail how to setup MS Outlook (as it is very often used in corporate environments). In fact it works with each software which allows to enter 2 dates for each task (a start date and a due date), a priority and lets you filter and sort by priority or date. I'm using Emacs org-mode for my MYN setup. The Goals are managed separately in a mindmap or similar. – MostlyHarmless Jan 20 '14 at 20:57
You should have a look at the free ebook - it gives quite good idea about the method itself. When you like it, I'd recommend buying the book "Master Your Workday Now". I found it very interesting and helpful. – MostlyHarmless Jan 20 '14 at 21:00
p.s. you'll find some more info about the system in some of my answers here: and here: – MostlyHarmless Jan 20 '14 at 23:29

It looks like you have got the approach of dividing in to sub tasks however getting it through in practical situation is causing some friction. A few cents from my side - have a look to "Win at Work: Navigate the Nasties, Get Things Done and Get Ahead " much near to ground contents. I used it before few years and observed the theories here have a huge payoff!

Let me know how you think about it.

Thanks Much, Tanmay Soni.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.