The Monday Morning Practice this week is inspired by Ron Friedman’s HBR Blog post “9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity” and tip number four from Adam Grant who says that leaving important tasks unfinished can make us far more productive. Grant is a Wharton professor, psychologist, and the the author of Originals, a book Seth Godin has described as “An urgent must read, a seminal work that will surprise you on every single page. Adam Grant has reset our expectations for what it means to be creative and what’s required to make a difference. Share it with someone you care about.”
How does leaving important tasks unfinished make us more productive?
Our brains need time to process information and cognate. When we work on a difficult project and then set it aside to focus on something else we give our mind time to continue to work in the background. Also, as our brain ponders in the background it is being exposed to a variety of other stimuli from our environment and this can help inspire new thoughts and promote creativity. The result is that when we return to the task after a break of some minutes, hours, or days, we come back with fresh ideas and insights.
I tried this strategy last week with positive results. I am working on writing up the content for a new course I am launching at the end of the month. Last week I would work intensely on a lesson, and then when I started to feel tired or stuck I would set it aside to work on something else. I found that when I returned to the lesson I had fresh ideas and was easily able to pick up and continue to from where I left off.
This tip is about working in alignment with how our brain functions rather than against it. Trying to force closure on a thinking task by insisting it must get done before moving on to something else is working against yourself. Allowing yourself to shift between tasks helps you get more done, and in turn can produce better quality work.
Of course, this also requires starting your tasks well in advance of deadline!
This week try out Grant’s productivity strategy. Don’t force yourself to finish your significant tasks all in one go, instead choose to move between various tasks, leaving your important work incomplete for a time before returning to complete it. This strategy gives your brain time to cognate in the background and can help to promote insight and creativity leading you to get more done and produce better quality work.