The Clear-Cut Cake Strategy: Celebrate your way to beating procrastination

The clear-cut cake strategy will help you remember what most forget when it comes to breaking down big goals into manageable steps.

Most people know that you have to break down big ideas or projects into smaller tasks, in order to get things done. For example, the title of Anne Lamott’s wonderful writing guide, Bird by Bird is the advice her father gave her overwhelmed brother the night before the big homework project he neglected to start was due.

When we procrastinate or feel stuck, however, there are a couple more steps we need to take in addition to breaking things down.

The Clear-Cut Cake Strategy: Step by Step

Imagine you have a big beautiful cake. That’s like the big dream you have. And, if you’re a perfectionist who procrastinates, you want to keep that dream pristine and perfect. And, the way you do that is to preserve it in your head. You make plans and think through options, but you take little action.

But, that’s like trying to swallow the cake whole.

Instead what you want to do is to slice the cake and then use a fork to eat bite-size pieces, one at a time.

Slices of the cake are projects. But, what’s key here is to make sure the project is something that is within your control. For example, if your dream is to have a meaningful career, then “get a job” is not actually a good project. Getting a job requires someone else giving you a job, so it isn’t completely within your control. A better slice would be to “contact former colleagues you admire.”

And, then, the bites would be your next action steps–small tasks you can do within 10-20 minutes. Remember you eat one bite one at a time, so your first fork-full might be “locate Tamika’s email address.” Sometimes, you can’t work on a task right away, so you schedule it a time when you can.

Want more?

The video clip of the Clear-Cut Cake Strategy is from the talk I gave for Penn Alumni Career Tools. I also shared it during my talk at Georgetown. Please check out those full presentations for more examples of the Clear-Cut Cake Strategy as well as other strategies.

I am also developing a cohort-based class where I share will not only share strategies but work closely with you to implement them in your busy life. You’ll also get to meet and learn from other like-minded smart and caring people. To learn more, please sign up for the waiting list.

Your turn

So, how will you have your cake and eat it too?


Stop feeling like there is never enough time. Create space for what’s important to you.

Learn what typically holds smart and creative people back and 5 simple strategies you can use every day.

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