Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Completion Bias

You know how hard it is to get started on a big, new writing project? Heard those stories about writers who work at home cleaning the bathroom when they're supposed to be working? And what about the serious draw of all those little social media marketing responsibilities? Do they call to you when you're supposed to be starting an entire revision?

It appears that there's a logical reason for all that. Not to say that the logical reason is a good thing. Just an explanation.

Completion Bias Is Natural!

In The One Cognitive Bias That Could Be Derailing Your Productivity at Where Marketers Go to Grow Lindsay Kolowich says, "completion bias is our natural tendency to focus too much on tasks that are easy to complete -- often at the expense of the tasks that are more important." We go for little tasks because we like the psychological reward when we complete things. Complete one big task that takes a long time and get just one reward, or complete a number of little tasks and get more rewards? We get to choose.

Even if the little jobs are real tasks that need to be completed--promoting this blog post with tweets, for instance, or prepping for a writers' group meeting--working on them first means we're not getting to a big job. A new draft. A #!!@ synopsis. 

How To Get Around Completion Bias

Kolowich suggests two approaches:
  1. Choosing the most important task from your To Do list and working on that first, no matter its size.
  2. Breaking a big job into smaller jobs, so you've created small, easier to complete tasks.
I think this subject would be worth at least one more post. So next week I'll write a bit about how completion bias connects with other time management issues I've discussed here.


Jen Robinson said...

I totally have completion bias, though I haven't seen it defined before. I LOVE checking things off my task list, no matter how small they are. Making a big task into a bunch of smaller tasks definitely makes sense to me.

Gail Gauthier said...

I'm going to write about that next week.

Jen Robinson said...

Cool. I'll look forward to it!

Nancy Tandon said...

Thank you for sharing this! The one thing I've gotten over is the need to clean before I write. My house reflects this. ; )