"Keeping a “have done" list

"If you are working on one thing all day, it is very easy to remember what you did and give yourself credit for it," says CEO and co-founder Walter Chen. "But if you did 20 things and one is have a conversation with your kid and one is put out a fire, it's often hard to remember those things." Pausing to reflect is an opportunity to remember those accomplishments and to recognize their value. "Giving yourself credit helps you feel productive," says Chen, affirming, "That actually makes you more productive." 

Bottom line: To-do lists are useful for organizing and prioritizing work. But you should also maintain a "have done" list--or at least reflect on your accomplishments for a few minutes at the end of each day--to keep yourself motivated.

Leigh Buchanan writing in Inc.

Do people work better when they are stressed?

It’s a dangerous fallacy to say that people perform better when they’re stressed, over-extended, or unhappy. We found just the opposite. People are more likely to come up with a creative idea or solve a tricky problem on a day when they are in a better mood than usual. In fact, they are more likely to be creative the next day, too, regardless of that next day’s mood. There’s a kind of “creativity carry-over” effect from feeling good at work. 

Teresa Amabile talking about her book Do people work better when they are stressed?

The False Loops of Social Media

“We crave some sense of closure, some sense of being done,” says Tim Wu, a Columbia law professor and author of The Attention Merchants. “Much of social media tries to prevent you from ever having that feeling.”

Social media sites, in particular, are designed to create what he calls “false loops,” where you never reach the end of what you can do on the platform. He thinks that goes against our way of making sense of the world: Humans have a natural predilection toward creating experiences and narratives that start and end, like the social ritual of eating dinner with a friend, or attending a concert, or even reading an article. But social media tends to disrupt these things–unlike a well-planned story or meal, Wu compares experiencing social media to a buffet, where nothing really goes together. Coincidentally, you also end up stuffing yourself and feeling ill.

“Our brains like to close things out,” Wu says. “I think that a lot of design now is trying to turn all of us into obsessive-compulsives by making it so the loops are never closed.” Film and TV offer a compelling parallel. “How do you feel after going to see a really great movie, as opposed to channel surfing for three hours?” he says. “It’s a complete difference. One has a beginning, middle, and an end, versus you saw half of 10 shows and kind of got into something that didn’t develop all the way through.”

Katharine Schwab writing in Fast Company

The “Uh Oh” Effect

Resist the “uh oh” effect. Midpoints—of work projects and training regiments can either discourage (the oh no” effect) or motivate (“oh no, time's running out”). UCLA researchers studying teamwork found that the majority of groups did almost no work until halfway to the deadline then suddenly buckled down. Set interim goals and adopt the “chain” technique: Pick a task and mark a calendar with an X every day you do it—the string of X’s serves as an incentive.

Aaron Fernandez writing in Wired Magazine

10,000 hours of deliberate practice is not enough

In a study of violin students at a conservatory in Berlin in the 1980s.. there was something.. that almost everyone has subsequently overlooked. “Deliberate practice,” they observed, “is an effortful activity that can be sustained only for a limited time each day.” Practice too little and you never become world-class. Practice too much, though, and you increase the odds of being struck down by injury, draining yourself mentally, or burning out. To succeed, students must “avoid exhaustion” and “limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

Everybody speed-reads through the discussion of sleep and leisure and argues about the 10,000 hours (necessary to become world-class in anything).

This illustrates a blind spot that scientists, scholars, and almost all of us share: a tendency to focus on focused work, to assume that the road to greater creativity is paved by life hacks, propped up by eccentric habits, or smoothed by Adderall or LSD. Those who research world-class performance focus only on what students do in the gym or track or practice room. Everybody focuses on the most obvious, measurable forms of work and tries to make those more effective and more productive. They don’t ask whether there are other ways to improve performance, and improve your life.

This is how we’ve come to believe that world-class performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice. But that’s wrong. It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writing in Nautilus

If it’s powerful enough to distract you, harness it’s power

People often ask me “What are some great books to buy?” My response is usually “The ones you’ll actually read.” Doing a bunch of activities that you think are important will almost always be less impactful than doing the stuff that genuinely fires you up. It’s hard to be great at the stuff that you have to work hard just to tolerate.

Pay attention to the side projects and hobbies that no one needs to pay you for. Pay attention to the stuff that doesn’t have to be mandatory in order for you to be motivated to do it. Pay attention to the stuff that keeps you awake at night not because of fear and obligation, but because you’re always fantasizing about it. That’s where your advantage is.

TK Coleman, 5 Ways to Steal Like An Artist