My mom says that the more things you do the more things you are able to do. She always tells when she comes to see me, because I was working, studying a Master’s degree, raising 3 small children and learning to knit (a hobby I have since left because it made my shoulders ache… probably because my technique was not good). Now I have 4 kids and left work to do a full-time PhD. Supposedly life would be easier, but lately I have been very busy because I am also teaching an undergraduate course on information system analysis and design, and preparing for this course has been harder than expected. But life is good.
Anyway, to the point. Last week I managed to finish many things that were on my mind for some time: a poster for a mini-conference we had last week, another of the course’s presentations, read most of my mails and filled out some bureaucratic stuff I had to do for my scholarship. I felt great, and was more productive than usual, and started to think why this had happened. After a while I remembered some studies that I had read in a behavioral investing book (I can’t remember which), which showed that as you take more decisions your brain starts to “tire” and the decisions become “worse”. There was also an experiment where people who had to do some thinking while there was a strong odor of baked cookies and they were hungry. In short, there are many studies that show that the brain works as a muscle, and that it can get tired. I thought of this as interesting but never made a full connections to my everyday life. Suddenly my brain clicked, and I understood why after doing things I get them off my brain, which means that it has something less to do… Causing it to work better 🙂
My conclusion? Don’t leave things for tomorrow. If you have small things in your to-do list and you can do them today, it will help you get the other things in your to-do list done. Maybe not today but tomorrow. And the less things you have in your to-do list, the more things you will be able to handle every day.
[28/11/2011] An afterthought – not only do things, also FINISH what you started. Because if you start many things all of the time the brain keeps them until you finish them…
BTW, I found an article on the subject in Scientific America. Interesting.