The Soup Method of Task Management

May 28th, 2018

I once asked a client “How could you change your system of task management so it doesn’t cause you anxiety whenever you think about it or use it?” and her response was “I’ve literally never even thought of that.” I feel this is true for a great many of us, particularly those of us who struggle with executive dysfunction. The pile of things we want, need, and are supposed to get done feels enormous, overwhelming, and turns us off of wanting to work on it at all. I’ve felt like this most of my adult life.

I’ve been making tweaks to my task management nearly constantly over the past few years, and still this feeling of overwhelm keeps on returning. I’ve talked about different techniques on this very blog and now I’m here to share another one. The latest in an Iron-Man-like line of new models. This one is about soup.

I like to cook in big batches. I have a Dutch oven and stock pot for this purpose. I make way more soup than my husband and I could hope to eat in a week. And as long as I deal with it effectively, it never has the chance to go bad. Here’s how it works, and at this point we are also moving into the realm of metaphor. This is how my food and tasks currently work.

Starting with the huge pot of soup (or tasks) I first divide them into large containers. For the task metaphor this is my “monthly goals”. I still can’t eat this all in one go, so they go into the fridge and freezer.

These containers are then brought out at meal times, and further divided into two bowlfuls, and heated up. This could be weekly, according to preference, and also the homework generated during weekly coaching sessions. Once hot, the soup goes into two bowls, one for me and one for my husband. (In other words, remember to delegate, whenever possible.)

Once in the bowl, I would injure myself badly if I tried to just down a steaming bowl of soup all at once. So I use a spoon to eat it one mouthful at a time. This is my daily to do list and consists of the three things I’ll be focusing on or accomplishing that day. The thing is though that soup isn’t all I’ll be consuming today. It’s not realistic to think I could eat 5 bowls of soup every day because I’m already needing to drink a minimum of 1 litre of water a day and so on. So my daily list includes preset things depending on what day of the week it is. On Tuesdays, for example, there is no room for any additional items because routines, errands, and laundry are always there.

And sometimes, in both the literal sense, and the metaphorical task management sense, I put too much soup into my bowl and need to put it back in the fridge to heat up and eat later. And that’s ok! Poorly estimating how much we can accomplish in a day is one way we can learn and grow. This is one reason writing down, recording, and paying attention to our daily to do lists can be super helpful because we can begin to see patterns of things we avoid and amounts we can realistically achieve.

So there you have it, the classic executive function trick of breaking things down, with a soup twist. Because I love soup.

What is your task management system’s most prominent feature?