The Swiss Cheese method introduced by Alan Lakein in his book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life serves to help procrastinators break down large tasks and get things done using small pieces of time.
The Swiss Cheese method in a nutshell:
- The Chunk of Swiss Cheese – choose a large task or project to get done and divide it into many small tasks.
- The Holes in the Swiss Cheese – Begin working on a small task even if you only have a small amount of time. Don’t worry about getting it done now, just do as much as you can in the time you have.
- The Cheese Has so Many Holes it’s Gone – As you complete each small task, you work toward the goal of completing your entire project. Eventually, the small amounts of time and the small completed tasks add up until the entire project is complete.
The main ideas are to:
- prevent procrastination by breaking a large piece of work into smaller pieces so the entire project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
- use small amounts of time getting something done instead of ignoring valuable work time usually considered too short to use.
- eventually putting all the small pieces together to see that a large part or all of the project is complete.
When a project is large, many people have trouble getting started because the project in its entirety seems daunting. Using The Swiss Cheese Method allows you to break down the large project and work on many different small tasks to make headway, even if you don’t have a large block of time to dedicate at once.
Putting it to the Test – The Swiss Cheese Method in One Day
Early morning meeting in 20 minutes – I had 20 minutes before I had to leave the house for a meeting. I was completely ready to go and normally wouldn’t consider the 20 minutes enough time to get some good work done, so I would check my email, Facebook, and screw around reading things online. Instead, I jumped right in and began my research for this post. Surprisingly, I managed to write more than half the draft in that small amount of time.
Returned from meeting 30 minutes until lunch – Thirty minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but as I already had a lot done it was easy to continue. If I had a blank post sitting in front of me I would normally put it off until after lunch. Yes, I am very, very familiar with procrastination!
After lunch 30 minutes until I had an appointment – I really want to put off the blog and do everything later when I would have a good chunk of time. Instead, I make another hole in the cheese and continue writing and revising the post. I complete the piece and only need to edit and revise a bit. I am astonished at how much I am getting done in small bits of time.
Two free hours to complete the post – When I sat down to use the large chunk of time I originally put aside to complete the post, I had so much done that I only needed 30 minutes. This allowed me to use the rest of my time to continue on another project. I was really pleased to make a lot more progress on everything today than I thought I would.
I really find the Swiss Cheese method a good way to get going and avoid procrastination. I sometimes (OK always) have trouble getting started with the initial blank page.
- This method freed me from feeling overwhelmed when first starting. As I only had a small amount of time, I gave myself permission to just blurt a bunch of thoughts onto the page and was surprised at how much came out!
- I normally edit as I write. Realizing that I couldn’t possibly finish the whole thing right now let me put aside the continual editing for later, which seemed to give me more time to just write.
- Coming back to the work was easy as I already had it started. I could sit down and continue my thoughts, or concentrate on editing to read through the piece and get me back into the groove.
I now see small chunks of time everywhere! I imagine all the things I could get done if I actually used the time instead of playing Solitaire on my phone or surfing online. I could make lists, I could do research, I could write in my note app while waiting at the dentist office! The Swiss Cheese method has opened my eyes to all the time I was wasting and I hope to begin using more of the time that I tended to fritter away. However, I really do enjoy a good game of Solitaire!