Crux of What To Know About Productivity by Gregory Ciotti:

Research shows that “our brain fears big projects” and “will attempt to “simulate” real productive work by avoiding big projects and focusing on small, mindless tasks to fill your time.”

Studies have found several ways to overcome this.

Get Started

“The Zeigarnik Effect” is our tendency to want to finish what we started, whether it’s a real project or a reality TV show. So “the best way to overcome your fear of spending a lot of energy on a big project is to simply get started.”

Short Bursts of Energy

Since “willpower is a limited resource that can be used up in it’s entirety” it is best to “break big projects down into smaller chunks and plan a recovery period right after.”

To sync with our natural rhythm, schedule “productive sessions (of 90 minutes) followed by short breaks (of no more than 15-20 minutes)”.

Track Output, Not Input

“Tracking your progress […] increase self-control because you’ll be exposed to the work you’ve actually accomplished, and not the (inaccurate) assumption of work you might construe in your head.”

A simple 2-column tracking system:

  • in the left column write your 90-minutes scheduled sessions of focused work
  • in the right column write tasks you accomplished in each session

Focus on One Thing at a Time

Research shows that “multitaskers are actually less likely to be productive, yet they feel more “emotionally satisfied” with their work (creating an illusion of productivity).”

To avoid multitasking and distractions:

  • turn off alerts, notifications, and extra applications.
  • “create an evening planning ritual where you select a few priority tasks to accomplish the next day.” because “we drastically miscalculate the amount of focus we’ll be able to maintain in the future [and then] when tomorrow rolls around without a game plan to get us started, we’ll likely fall back into our old multitasking ways to avoid doing any real work.”
  • “split large tasks up into smaller segments so your brain won’t view the assignment as something that is so large that you must multitask to complete it.”
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