Suggestions for handling long-term tasks or goals

How do some of you handle long single tasks? Let’s say my wife wants me to read a book and it’s a big one. It’s only one task but that task could remain for a LONG time on my lists. Life has lots of these big single tasks like “clean out garage”, or “organize google drive folder”. What they have in common is that you can’t complete them in one sitting.


thanks ahead of time!

I think your example is a little tongue-in-cheek, so here goes…

First question: Do YOU want to read the book?

Next question; have you got the book?

If not, there’s your first action already ;-)

After that, you could create a sequence of tasks such as “Chapter 1 of Fifty Shades of Gray read” and make sure you have an appropriate context such as “Sitting in the Sun.”

Honestly though, I don’t think you need much more than a task which says something like “Book recommended by wife bought”

Thanks for the reply.

Well…in this case the book is “Husband coached Childbirth”. THAT probably answers your first question. ;)

I already have the book, it just seems a bit strange to break up a book and add it as individual tasks.

But really, I’m trying to understand how to handle these things but not let them get out of control and be able to track them.

Possibly a Perspective? Call it (ongoing big/long tasks?)

I wouldn’t make a task for each page in the book, but a project or action group for reading the book, with actions representing some sensible number of chunks (halves, quarters, whatever works for you) might still be helpful. When I have a ‘big rock’ task that needs doing, I find having some smaller steps to check off along the way helps prevent me from getting too discouraged. I set up a weight-loss project this way last year, and it helped me a lot. I got to check off the smaller “lose 5 pounds” actions on the way towards my ultimate goal and it helped me stay motivated.

Breaking the action up into stages can also help with pacing as you approach the final deadline. In general, I try to use deadlines very sparingly, but setting biweekly or monthly goals to shoot for can help ensure you don’t end up letting everything pile up until the last minute.

Hope this helps!

Also consider creating a repeating action such as “spend 15 minutes reading book”. Alternatively (or additionally), you could create an action to prompt you to book some time on your calendar to be spent reading the book.

“Clean out garage” sounds more like a project than a single action. In keeping with GTD best practices, I recommend making sure you’re clear on what the outcome looks like for this project and articulate actions in support of reaching this outcome, getting as granular as is necessary.


@Doug1, I actually do exactly this.

  • I have a project called ‘Reading’
  • Within the ‘Reading’ project, I have a action group for each book I want to read
  • Each action group (i.e. book) has the chapters for that book which I simple check off and gives me a sense of progress.

The chapter list is often simple to make … i just look for the book’s table of contents online and copy it.

As for actually reading … I read multiple books simultaneously … i have book I read a chapter of before I sleep, one I take on me for business trips and sometimes, I flag book chapters to read so I can schedule them.

I hope this helps