Kickstart personal productivity

by Admin
Updated: July 22, 2018

Kickstart personal productivity with a small unfinished task of relatively low importance

We are at our most productive when our work doesn’t feel like work. On the other hand, when we’re faced with a new task, it can sometimes be difficult to get started.

Starting a small task - one that is related to the primary task but is easy - and leaving it unfinished while taking a break (whether it is a short break or overnight between business days) provides a way of bypassing any negative emotions associated with tackling the more challenging primary task directly.

This is not the same as leaving a big task slightly unfinished.

The problem with prioritizing

In business, we know that we must cultivate our customers’ and employees’ engagement. We’re unlikely to get good results by locking them in a room until they behave the way we want.

Unfortunately, forcing ourselves to take on tasks in strict order of priority sometimes puts us in a comparable situation.

Two extremes of gratification

We have an innate desire for instant gratification - rewards now! Sometimes we choose this at the expense of rewards in the future. This is often how bad choices are made.

The ability to work now for rewards in the future is deferred gratification and is an indicator for long-term success. The ability to knuckle down and push through is generally respected but it doesn’t encourage quality.

Harmonized gratification

When it’s important for us to enjoy the process, we must leverage our natural desire for pleasure in the moment. It’s a trait we already have so, rather than deny it, we can make it work for us.

When the process is ongoing, we can achieve this by making sure we enjoy it in all its aspects - we are happy in our work.

Connect the dots

When presented with a fresh task, especially one that is unfamiliar, we have plenty of scope to doubt that we’ll enjoy (or even be able to do) everything it entails.

When this is the case, identifying details that are most accessible, attending to them first and then assembling them to complete the main task is an effective approach.

This is basically completing a bunch of stages that provide instant gratification so that accomplishing the main task is simply a final (and immediately gratifying) step of adding them all together.

Deferred instant gratification

When the main task spans multiple work periods, I use “deferred instant gratification” to kickstart my productivity. This involves starting a small task of relatively low importance and leaving it unfinished whenever I take a break.

This way, when I return, I can resume without hesitation because I know exactly what I’m going to do and I know that I’ll be able to accomplish it quickly.

This reestablishes momentum and, because the small task is related to the main task, I will be reconnecting into the main task before I can be daunted by it.

Start as opposed to don’t finish

It’s important to note the emphasis is on starting something as opposed to leaving something unfinished.

It’s a popular idea that breaking off when you are confident of the final stages provides an instant in-road to restarting. However, in my opinion & experience it still marks an end point and is not effective at re-establishing momentum.

If I have momentum going, I will stay in the groove and finish it.

Then I will start on something else (small) and then take a break.

More info

In order to kickstart his day, Dennis Reimann will “Leave a Task Unfinished” at git-tower.com.

Leave something small, don’t kill momentum: “Leave Your Tasks Unfinished to Maintain Momentum and Avoid Mental Blocks” at lifehacker.com.

The “Zeigarnik Effect” (the tendency for interrupted or incomplete tasks to occupy our thoughts) at goodtherapy.org.

“Leave Work Unfinished To Get Work Done” at blog.scribblepost.com.

Internal links

The unbroken chain method Eliminate procrastination Doing nothing Go to Articles
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