If it can be done in a min, do not put it on the to-do list: quick productivity hacks


Contrary to what people say, it is actually difficult for an entrepreneur to be productive all the time than a normal professional. Why? There is so much to do, so many tweets to reply to, mails to send, blogs to read, people to message, and the result: more and more uncompleted tasks and unmet goals! And as the number of such tasks increases, the OCD also increases, either that or by weekend you reach a stage of not giving a damn.

That would have been cool if it didn’t correspond to more headaches the next working day. That reminds me to tell you what the Zeigarnik effect is: Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.

Now we can go back to evolutionary biology to discuss why it happens but I don't want to do that, instead let's see when does this take place? You may think that Zeigarnik effect happens till the goal is achieved, but that's not true. Even if you note down how you are going to that particular task, or write the next actionable item somewhere the reminders stop.

Even though they hadn’t finished the task or made any palpable progress, the simple act of making a plan has cleared their minds and eliminated the Zeigarnik effect. The unconscious mind apparently nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders. That's why it becomes very important to put down to paper the next actionable item for that particular task.

  • Actionable items/To-do List - The one thing wrong with the current To-do lists are that they are too generic. For example, if I have to start a new marketing campaign for college students to help them with their accommodation and I put that down to my to-do list, it's too generic and boring. My to-do list already has a hundred other items and looking at this particular task day in and day out will only give me anxiety because WHOA marketing campaign that sounds like a big task and I will keep procrastinating. Instead a good option would be to just figure out the small next actionable item for this BIG task, for example, "Talk to three college students about the problem." Let's break it even down, say I know this college student Kashyap, so my task would become, "Talk to Kashyap on the problems students are facing in terms of accommodation," now when I see that task in my list, it seems like a pretty easy task to do and once you do that, add to your list the next smallest actionable item to your BIG DAUNTING task.
  • Two-minute Maggi Rule -If there is a task that will just take two minutes to finish, DO NOT PUT IT ON THE LIST, finish it right away. As a small rule, I see all the tasks on my list and just guess the amount of time it will take to finish that particular task, if that is only going to take a few minutes I instantly finish it and mark it off my list. Then my list which was earlier filled with so many tasks like "Call Sales team in Mumbai," "Send a mail to Sumit" etc is shortened by 100% within an hour. So as a rule, never ever put something on the to-do list if it can be done in a few minutes. And Maggi takes more than 2 minutes to cook! Period.

You have your own hacks of being productive? Tell us about them in your comments.