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The Psychological Method for Getting Things Done

They conducted an experiment in the 1970s to see if the same college students who brought in their assignments on time also had clean socks. (This is not a joke; they actually did it.)

The idea was that people who completed their schoolwork would also complete their personal chores.

However, the outcomes were the opposite of what they had hoped for. Students who turned in assignments on time were bad at keeping up with laundry, while students who kept up with laundry sent in work late.

What's going on?

Researchers eventually discovered that we have a finite quantity of attention and willpower to devote to any given day. If we devote all of our concentration and willpower to doing laundry first, we will be exhausted before we can complete our assignments. We tend to put off washing laundry for another day or even another week if we finish our assignments first.

People were left alone in a room with cookies in a second experiment. Some were permitted to consume the cookies, while others were not.

After that, each group was handed a challenge that was incredibly tough to solve. Those that were allowed to eat the cookies, as well as a control group that did not see any cookies, worked on the puzzle for an average of 20 minutes. Those who had to develop willpower by not eating the cookies, on the other hand, only spent 8 minutes working on the puzzle because they had already expended a significant amount of their willpower.

If you go to a mall and give them easy math problems to do, those who have spent a long time shopping will give up far faster than those who have just walked into the mall and haven't yet shopped.

Understanding what these experiments mean for you might drastically alter how you schedule your work and how much you can get done in a day and in your life.

Every day, each of us has a limited amount of willpower that depletes as we utilize it. And here's another surprise: We utilize the SAME amount of willpower for ALL tasks, no matter what they are or how essential or insignificant they are.

We lack willpower in the areas of laundry, homework, cookies, and arithmetic... When we wake up in the morning, we are granted one glob* of global willpower.

If you believe you lack the willpower to exercise after work, it is more likely that you have exhausted all of your willpower at work and have none remaining. Exercising before going to work will solve your issue.

If you decide to go grocery shopping before finishing your work, you will exhaust your willpower by making hundreds of small judgments about what to buy and what not to buy. As a result, when you get home from the store, you may find yourself squandering time on the internet or watching television because you lack the willpower to accomplish real work.

You'll get a lot more done if you do your creative work first thing in the morning instead of putting it off until the end of the day.

There are methods for conserving willpower and attention so that you can devote more of it to critical tasks.

For example, you can cook the same dishes for each meal so you don't have to select what to make every day. Even better, you can hire someone to cook a week's worth of meals for you. If you don't understand how willpower works, this may appear to be a costly decision. However, if you divert the attention, decision-making, and willpower required to shop for and cook 21 meals per week to your business, you will make far more money than you spend on the meals.

You can, like Steve Jobs, wear the same kind of clothes every day so that you don't have to think about what to wear. Every day, Steve Jobs would put on a pair of trousers and a black turtleneck without giving any thought to what to wear.

Don't check your email first thing in the morning. Reading a hundred subject lines, responding to 30 emails, composing 5 emails... all of this adds up to a significant amount of decision making, concentration, and willpower that could be better spent doing the work that pays the bills.

Any irrelevant chores you can eliminate or delegate will lower the number of decisions you have to make and the amount of willpower you burn each day, allowing you to devote more willpower and attention to your main goal.

You've probably heard this prioritization strategy referred to as the "best use of your time." A professional earning $5000 per hour does not spend 5 hours per week cleaning her home. Why would she when she can hire someone to do it for her for $20 an hour? She can still earn $4800 per hour while employing a maid and doing her own work.

However, if she spends 5 hours cleaning her own house, she will have lost $25,000 in revenue. To put it another way, she spends $25,000 every week cleaning her house, which is absurd at best and insane at worst.

Here are the only three lessons you need to alter your life and double, if not quadruple, your productivity:

1: Eliminate as many minor tasks and decisions as you can, freeing up willpower and focus for what is truly important. Hire someone to clean your house, prepare your meals, run errands, and so on. Get rid of everything that requires your time and attention but does not deliver a solid return on your investment. This may imply letting go of duties such as serving on a committee for a non-priority cause, giving up a pastime that no longer fulfills you, simplifying your home and things, streamlining your wardrobe, and so on.

2: Begin your day by doing the most important item first, then the second most important thing, and so forth. This could imply that you exercise first, then complete the highest value work task, then the second highest value work task, and so on.

3: While we did not go over this in detail, it is critical to find something that you absolutely adore that is completely unconnected to what you generally do. In other words, find a hobby you enjoy and devote some time to it at the end of the day. This will take you out of the workplace, decrease tension, provide satisfaction, and make it easier to get up the next day and begin your most essential task of the day.

*A scientific word