Imagine that every time you faced a daunting task, you could immediately hit on a way to make it easy and inviting to get started. I bet you can—if you make a “Maybe” list.
The problem you have is a blob of overload and uncertainty in your mind. You know too much about how hard the task is. You know you can’t just plunge in. But you don’t know enough to see clearly what would be a good first step. That’s why it’s daunting. It’s big and you don’t know how to tackle it.
In this situation, you can exploit what you know by making a “Maybe” list. Write down all the things that you “might” do that “maybe” will help with the daunting task. Try for 10-20.
For example, if you realize you have too much to do in a day, don’t just let your stomach sink. Make a list of things you “might” do that “maybe” will help you stay on top of things.
Or if you are supposed to get a project done by a certain deadline, and it seems hopeless, make a list of things you “might” do that “maybe” will help you get it finished that early.
It is crucial that you ask yourself what you “might” do that “maybe” will help, because those are answerable questions. Don’t ask yourself what you “should” do or “need” to do or even “can” do. You don’t know how to handle this task (it’s daunting), so those questions are too hard.
On the one hand, you do know a lot about the daunting task. And based on what you do know, you will probably find that you can make up a list of “maybe’s”—things that might help you get it done. After you have the list, you can then look through it and see which ones would in fact be worth doing to help you get started.
This process is amazingly helpful. I find that when I make the “Maybe” list, I immediately relax. I see that there are a couple of things I can do to deal with the “blob,” and that gives me confidence to get moving. And then, of course, once I start taking action on the task, I learn what I need to know to figure out the next steps. (And if not, I can make another “Maybe” list.)