I’ve been thinking about a productivity hack in my life that I felt was true, and then I recently two different books that said so in different ways.
First, let’s keep something in mind. Much of what I’m referring to is through the lens of writing but can be applied to whatever you want for your own life.
But if you don’t commit to writing, such as scheduling it into your calendar or task list, it’s likely not going to happen. As Michael Hyatt says, “you’re never going to find time in the leftover hours of your day to accomplish your goals.” You have to make the time for it, and treat it like an appointment you’d keep if it were a person.
In Michael Hyatt’s newest book, Your Best Year Ever, he says he writes the title page, dedication, and the table of contents for his book first. Then out of all the chapters he’s listed, he picks what he believes will be the easiest one, and writes it first.
He talks about front-loading his task-list because the first step with any task is usually the hardest. Not because it truly is the hardest, but because you need to get the ball rolling. For that reason start with the easiest part, and as Hyatt says, you lower the threshold for taking action, and you trick your brain into starting.
Quoting researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats, he says
Finishing immediate, mundane tasks actually improves your ability to tackle tougher, important things. Your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals. And since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation, even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward.
Doing this helps you gain momentum. Checking items from your to-do list frees up the mental and emotional energy to focus on other projects, and often times the tougher and tougher items become less daunting.
Geometric Progression & Building Momentum
I recently read similar thoughts to Hyatt’s in The One Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan where the main image of the book is the domino effect,
Each standing domino represents a small amount of potential energy; the more you line up, the more potential energy you’ve accumulated. Line up enough, and with a simple flick, you can start a chain reaction of surprising power.
In 1983, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that he’d discovered that domino falls could not only topple many things, they could also topple bigger things. He described how a single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50 percent larger.
The authors go on to describe how if you begin with a two-inch tall domino, and the next one is 50% bigger, and the one after that 50% larger than the previous one, and you keep going in this progression, then the 18th would be taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The 23rd would be taller than the Eiffel tower, and so on. Number 57 would bridge the distance between the earth and the moon.
Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life. And like dominoes, extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.
Take that first step, that easy step, and build momentum and before you know it that one domino is knocking down the next bigger one. Remember King David as a teenager walking on to the battlefield where the army of Israel had been losing courage listening to Goliath, leader of the Philistine army taunt them day in and day out. When he was brought before King Saul, he used the example that while tending to his flock, he saved them from a lion on one occasion and a bear on another, saying:
“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam 17:36)
Taking on the 9 foot tall Goliath was not really the same as a bear or a lion, but the previous two “dominos” gave David a confidence and a momentum that this next challenge would also be victorious.
And we all know the outcome to that one, even those of us who don’t know the Bible well at all know the David and Goliath story on some level.
“Success builds upon success, and as this happens, over and over, you move toward the highest success possible.“
Start with the easiest task ahead of you, and go from there, build on it.