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7 Cognitive Biases That Make Us Suck at Time Management

https://blog.doist.com/cognitive-biases-time-management/

blog.doist.com

7 Cognitive Biases That Make Us Suck at Time Management
Good news, you're not lazy! Your brain is just hardwired to sabotage your productivity. Here's what you can do about it...

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We All Tend To Make The Same Mental Mistakes

We All Tend To Make The Same Mental Mistakes

Economists used to believe that people will always choose the option that maximizes their well-being. But people act against their rational self-interest all the time.

We procrastinate and eat junk food and say yes to the things we don't have time for. Two Israeli psychologists found that we predictably make the same mental mistakes that can be avoided if we are aware of them.

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The Mere Urgency Effect

This bias addresses why we do unimportant tasks we think are time-sensitive over tasks that are not time-sensitive, even if the non-time-sensitive tasks provide greater rewards.

How to overcome this bias:

  • Use the Eisenhower Matrix. It will reveal the urgent/not urgent and important/not important tasks.
  • Block off on your calendar the most productive 2-4 hours each day for your most important work.
  • Only answer emails at specific times. Don't allow email to bleed into other time.
  • Give your important tasks a deadline and find a way to commit to it.

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The Zeigarnik Effect

This effect describes our tendency to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Each unfinished task takes up some of your attention, splitting your focus. It also interferes with your sleep.

What you can do about it:

  • Write your tasks down as soon as they come to you.
  • Have a system in place for organizing and regularly reviewing your tasks.
  • Have an end of work shutdown ritual, so your unfinished tasks don't stay in your mind after-hours.
  • Take a small step to help you get started. The act of starting can help you keep going to the end.
  • Don't forget to review your completed tasks and celebrate what you've already accomplished.

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The Planning Fallacy

We tend to underestimate the time it will take to complete a future task despite knowing that previous tasks have taken longer.

What you can do about it:

  • Break projects down into smaller parts and estimate how long each will take.
  • Add 20% to your project timeline. Finishing earlier than expected is better than being surprised by it.
  • Use historical data to make better predictions.
  • Limit the scope of the work. It means leaving off some things for a later stage.
  • When you're going to miss a deadline, communicate that early and often.

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The Sunk Cost Fallacy

We want to finish what we've started because of previously invested resources, even if it is better to quit and use our limited resources elsewhere for better returns.

What you can do about it:

  • Every decision has two costs. The first is the actual amount of money, time, or energy, and the second is the benefit you would have gotten from the next best alternative.
  • Do a quarterly inventory of your commitments. Decide if continuing a goal or commitment is worth it.
  • Ask yourself if you were just starting this endeavour today, would you still do it?

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Present Bias

We tend to choose a smaller, immediate reward over a larger reward in the future. For example, playing video games is more enjoyable than writing or coding or designing.

What you can do about it:

  • Help your future self. Automate your savings; lock yourself out of your social media apps and websites at certain times of the day.
  • Find ways to make the "right" thing more pleasant. Do exercise you actually enjoy; find healthy recipes that are also delicious.
  • Reframe how you think. Enjoy the process rather than only focusing on the rewards. Instead of running to lose weight, focus on the satisfaction you get after running a mile.
  • Imagine your future self to help motivate you to choose longer-term payoffs.

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Complexity Bias

We are inclined to believe that complex solutions and explanations are better than simple ones. The perception of complexity often leads to avoidance.

What you can do about it:

  • Instead of seeking to understand a concept fully, opt for action. Try things, see how they work, then slowly improve over time.
  • Choose the system you'll stick with long-term. Look for strategies that will work with your natural ability, even if they are not the most effective.
  • Apply Occam's Razor to counterbalance the complexity bias. When faced with two possible explanations for the same evidence, the one with the fewest assumptions is likely true.

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Hedonic Adaptation

We quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite positive or negative external events. We pursue a promotion and believe it will make us happy. When we get it, we are temporarily happier, only to get back to our baseline levels the next week.

How to overcome it:

  • Set many smaller goals instead of one big one that can only give you a one-time bump in happiness.
  • Enjoy the process, not just the outcome. If you're trying to lose weight, savour the satisfaction of feeling fitter, not just hitting your ideal weight.
  • The outcome won't make you happier, but the act of showing up regularly can.
  • Pursue strong social connections. Studies find that it is the strongest predictor of long-term happiness.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The Way We Delude Ourselves

The Way We Delude Ourselves

Cognitive Biases are a collection of faulty and illogical ways of thinking which are hardwired in the brain, most of which we aren’t aware of.

The idea of cognitive biases was invented ...

Hyperbolic Discounting

It's a tendency to heavily weigh the moment which is closer to the present, as compared to something in the near or distant future.

Example: If you are offered a choice of $150 right now or $180 after 30 days, you would be more inclined to choose the money you are offered right now. However, if we take the present moment out of the equation, and put this offer in the distant future, where you are offered $150 in 12 months or $180 in 13 months, your choice is likely to be the latter one.

Common Biases

  • Actor-Observer Bias: the way the explanation of other people’s behaviour tends to focus on the influence of their personality while being less focused on the situation while being just the opposite while explaining one’s own behaviour.
  • Zeigarnik Effect: when something unfinished and incomplete tends to linger in the mind and memory.
  • The IKEA Effect: when our own assembling of an object is placed at a higher value than the other objects.
  • Optimism Bias: makes us underestimate the cost and duration for every project we try to undertake or plan.
  • Availability Bias: makes us believe whatever is more easily available to our consciousness, and is more vivid (or entrenched) in our memory.

5 more ideas

Cognitive biases

Cognitive biases

...are common thinking errors that harm our rational decision-making.

We don't always see things as they are. We don't simply glean information through the senses and act on it; inste...

Optimism Bias

Is our tendency to overestimate the odds of our own success compared to other people's. 

Overly optimistic predictions can be dangerous, leading us to waste time and resources pursuing unrealistic goals. In the real world of business, things don't always work out for the best, and it serves us well to know when conditions are not on our side.

How to control the optimism bias

  • Be skeptical of your own rosy expectations for your work. 
  • Assume projects will be more difficult and more expensive than you initially think they will. 
  • Don't trust your good ideas to manifest through positive thinking - be ready to fight for them.
  • Trust the numbers. Numbers are firm but fair, and getting intimate with your business's cash flow can help you make more rational decisions.

Confirmation bias

People don't like to rethink their beliefs once they are formed. 

We would rather ignore information that would challenge our ideas than engage with threatening new information. This is ...

Availability heuristic

Our brain likes to take shortcuts to solve a problem when normal methods are too slow to find a solution. 

The problem with this approach is that frightening events are easier to recall than every-day events. We should be aware that alarmist news broadcasts don't help in an accurate sense of events.

Anchoring

We have a tendency to stubbornly hold on to a number once we hear it and gauge all other numbers based on the initial number, even if the information is not that relevant.

For example, if customers are limited to 'four per customer' they are more likely to buy four, even if they did not initially intend to do so.