Work is never finished, and we are unable to disconnect from it, causing us to experience productivity shame, impacting our happiness and creativity.
The modern working profiles (like knowledge work and remote work) do not have strict guidelines on a day’s productivity or any clear deliverables. It relies on a constant flow of communication, collaboration and multiple switching of context.
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Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.
This is known as the completion bias.
We are not a factory pumping out products. Our constant switching of context, and checking our smartphone notifications/email has a huge impact on our productivity, focus and our ability to get things done. We are rarely productive in the real sense but feel productive doing pseudo-work all the time.
Productivity is not getting more stuff done every day, but getting important stuff done in a consistent manner.
If we don’t see enough progress by the end of the day, it feels (to us or our superiors) like we haven’t done enough.
Apart from the completion bias, where our brain seems hardwired to wanting to finish the given tasks, we are also having another cognitive bias called the planning fallacy, in which the brain is unable to estimate how long any task would take.
The answer is The Progress Principle, the art of reducing big, audacious goals into small chunks of doable and easily trackable tasks that provide us with a sense of accomplishment.
Our self-motivation and excitement have a relatively short life span, and while we want to be motivated before we start something, it is only possible once we have begun. This paradox is called the Motivation Trap and basically implies that action precedes motivation and not the other way round.
The trick is to to create systems and tools that get things done and sets us up for future success.
Getting Things Done is a productivity system that helps us capture our work in one place and manage where our attention is going to be. The five steps of GTD are:
There are four elements that need to be done as a ritual to disconnect from work:
Take a good look at your life, and the goals you have set, and find out that sweet spot, the threshold of success that you think is ‘enough’ for you to feel productive and successful.
Example: At Google, projects have multiple objectives but instead of an all-or-nothing situation, they have Objective and Key Results (OKRs) which let them set a success threshold (usually 60 to 70 per cent) so that they feel challenged and motivated and at the same time do not feel like a failure.
Make time for a weekly review to consider whether your planning process is working or could be tweaked. Consider these questions: