Philosophistry Database
Productivity

80% of procrastination can be cured by doing 20% of the annoying work first, then letting momentum finish the rest

The 80/20 rule also applies to procrastination. 80% of procrastination can be solved by the first 20% of work. Consider the process of paying your bills. If you find envelopes stacking up on the table by the landing, it may help to put a letter opener there and to make a rule that nothing on the table shall remain in an envelope. You tell yourself that you don't necessarily have to pay all the bills right then and there, but that at the very least, you'll unmask every piece of mail, throwing away the envelope and throwing away the bundled promotional spam, leaving just the bill on its own.

Once you do that, the bill has a much greater chance of getting paid. It may even get paid right at that moment since you've created a tiny bit of momentum already to continue and finish the rest of the task.

But if those unadorned bills still sit on your table, you can apply the 80/20 rule again, and simply bring your checkbook to the table. Tell yourself that you're not making yourself pay the bill right then and there, but getting supplies ready for when you're in the mood. The process itself is often enough to get you to fill out the fields and send the check right then and there.

self-improvement productivity

To-Do Lists

People talk up to-do lists as if they were some magic solution, but for what? To-do lists can't reduce the time it takes to do the tasks, nor do the lists stop you from procrastinating. Their only purpose is as reminders. Instead, people most often use to-do lists as a way to project their anxieties about their responsibilities. Adding a task to your to-do list immediately feels like progress. You've now commited yourself to doing something in the future and so you feel a brief sense of relief. You were once anxious about the task not getting done, and now that it's "on the list," you feel secure that the task will be complete. But the relief is short-lived, and the anxiety is likely to return until you actually complete the task.

To-do lists can't end procrastination. They can't make you focus. They can't make you work faster or harder. That doesn't mean the lists aren't useless. To-do lists create a satisfying ding of progress when you cross items off, and they can also can also help you remember things that you are likely to forget. In other words, they're just reminders, and we should probably call them that. If we renamed our to-do lists "reminders," our attitude toward our tasks would change, and ultimately we'd probably have less anxiety. By using an economical label for our productivity tools, we avoid building expectations for them that that they can't possibly fulfill.

self-improvement productivity