How to solve complex tasks at ease

4 min readJul 20, 2023

Hey, this is KOTELOV. Today, we’d like to share what you can do if you face a challenging task at work that causes you nothing but torment. And even makes you consider quitting your IT job and switching to baking buns at the nearest bakery. P.s. nothing against buns and bakeries.

Let’s ask neuroscience.

Imagine a developer who needs to migrate data from an old version of a product to a new one. The new version features a different data storage structure, the old version has no documentation, and the amount of data is ~5–10 GB, which is 3 years of active product usage.

It is a shining example of a task that you want to put into cold storage. However, the longer the task is delayed, the more difficult it is to solve. As a result, the project deadlines will be missed.

Why we procrastinate:

· Fear of failure. When we face a huge task and can’t see its boundaries clearly, we are afraid of failure.

· Perfectionism. If we don’t know the path to the perfect result, we prefer not to deal with it at all.

· Self-restraint. We may subconsciously not want to stand out among others.

· Propensity to underestimate our abilities. We may underestimate our ability to solve a task and refuse to deal with it.

How to simplify the task:

  1. Use your rest time.

The default mode network (aka DMN) is a neural network of interacting brain parts. It is active when a human is not busy performing a task.

Perhaps many of you were in a situation where the solution to a problem popped up in your mind unexpectedly: while doing dishes, jogging, cooking dinner, or even in the shower. Such an effect may be due to the DMN. However, for a solution to arise, our brain needs to know what task it has to solve.

How to upload a task to your brain:

We create a task map: write out small facts associated with it that can help solve it. The goal at this stage is not the final neat map understandable for other people. It is rather the developer’s focus fixed directly on the task, so it’s easier to do it by hand without using complex tools. An example of such a simplified map is shown below.

Approximate map for solving the data migration task

The task should spin for more than one day in the default brain system, there is no need to deal with the task directly.

You can do routine business and solve simple tasks that do not require much concentration.

2. Make the task solution a source of dopamine.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for the motivation and feeling that arises with success. It gives an initial charge that pushes to achieve goals and later intensifies the feeling of satisfaction.

How to use:

· Break down the task into small, easy-to-perform stages.

· Determine the initial point. This point should be very simple. For example, create a script file to migrate the data into. Enjoy yourself from feeling cool.

3. Remember about the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive distortion. Propensity of people with a low level of competence in a certain area to overestimate their capabilities leads to wrong conclusions and failing decisions.

In the case of solving the data migration task, we can overestimate our knowledge of the old project, which is the source.

How to avoid:

· Refine knowledge and consult with experts.

· Look for the data that may have several values, clarify the criteria for defining “trash”.

· Try to objectively evaluate your competence in processing big data and the technologies used.

On the contrary, people with high expertise tend to underestimate their abilities, suffer from a lack of self-confidence and consider others to be more competent.

The overestimation of the competencies of the people in the team is another misconception that this effect causes. Developers forget that team members from other specializations (QA engineers, managers) may not know some things and unconsciously expect them to be involved in solving tasks — they think they are being ignored. This also works in reverse. This is why it is important to describe the problems in detail.

4. Account for cognitive distortions when assessing the task.

Welcome unforeseen difficulties, pitfalls, fatigue and burnout. When we realize that the deadlines for solving a task are unrealistic, we subconsciously want to refuse to deal with it. The perfect option is impossible, so let’s skip it at all. As a result, the task is ditched, and the resolving time tends to infinity.

Action plan:

Use the contingency factor, which is usually ~3. Set an optimistic deadline for completing the task with due account for this factor. This means that if the data migration might take a month at first glance, multiply it by 3 and indicate the implementation period of 3 months, because it may turn out that the structure of the new app will require modifications, the expert on the old project is unavailable for a long time, the migrated data failed to pass the validation algorithm, etc.

5. Confront laziness.

Set aside time to work on a specific task in your schedule. Plan it in advance, try to have at least 3–4 hours of continuous work, without switching to other tasks. Coordinate this time with your manager, family, and a dog.

Kristina Babich, our backend developer, has tested these methods firsthand and has become a master at fighting procrastination. Take advantage of this guide :)

What are your life hacks for dealing with procrastination? Share them in the comments!

Also tell us about the task that has become The One for you …