I have a confession: I use a particular four-letter word at least 10 times a day. I’m not even ashamed to say it. In fact, I hope to persuade you to start using it too.
The word is “done.”
I have embraced the art of “done!” for as long as I can remember. Researchers are finally catching up to me with the science as well. Dr. Leslie Sherlin, is a psychologist, neuroperformance specialist, and the cofounder of the brain-training company SenseLabs. He serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the organization and specializes in sports psychology. He’s spent years studying the brains of people (especially athletes) whose intense ability to focus allows them to make fast and good decisions on the fly in the field.
In a 2015 interview with Fast Company Magazine, Dr. Sherlin discusses how the brain reacts when it’s working on a complex or difficult task. Brain activity is heightened during the task, and when you finish, you get a shot of serotonin (the brain’s feel good hormone) and a brain wave state that resembles a relaxed – even meditative state. Your brain and body reward you for getting the job done – the physiological equivalent of a doggy treat and a hearty “good boy!” (or girl)
This reward state can help you get ready to focus on the next task, says Sherlin. That relaxed and upbeat moment builds confidence and momentum as you approach the next task. You know that feeling. It’s the exhilaration you feel as you cross item after item off your to-do list. “Bring it on – I’m on fire!”
Sherlin suggest incorporating more of these reward moments into your day by breaking your work into smaller chunks that can be accomplished quickly. This is another version of the “Swiss Cheese” method of working: take big projects, (“do your taxes”) and break them into a series of small tasks (“organize receipts.”)
These small tasks give you the opportunity to say “done!” more often.
Many productivity experts say that working in short, intensive bursts is more effective than spending hours on a single project. The first few minutes of intense focus are the most productive, so try setting an alarm that goes off after 15 minutes. Do as much work as you can in that 15 minutes, then say “done!” and take a brief break (mental or physical.) Set another 15-minute alarm, and get back to work.
Part of what makes this technique effective is that you jump straight into work, which you may not do if your time is not being measured. (I have not read any studies on the beneficial effects of shouting “go!” to get started, but it might be something to try.) For the record, exercise physiologists say this is the most effect way to work your body, as well.
One of my least favorite jobs was an administrative one that never had an end point; the work seemed to flow on forever. I realize now that I need the “done!” factor to find my work enjoyable. Do you work in shorter, more intense spurts? Do you have another productivity trick you’d like to share? Let me know.