So much to do and There’s no Time. It’s killing us

Hey there!

If anyone would’ve asked me what I was doing at any point of the day three months back I would’ve said I write for my blog, write short stories, read books, play GTA (or perhaps a Batman game), study for my exams, learn to play the guitar, do 3 Coursera courses, cycle 30km, do household chores, watch The big bang theory, postpone a Netflix party to watch Dark every day and at last get scolded for not spending enough time with family even during the lockdown.

I never felt at peace when I told this to people. Pangs of regret kept hitting me.

These were too many things I began to do! But I wasn’t doing a good job at any. I was being busy instead of being productive.

And my friends thought I was overthinking. And I get it. It looks fancy doing so many things and Wows people. But sooner or later, the quality of work hits back.

I was becoming a Jack of all trades and master of none. And I wasn’t a fan of it. I wanted to become a master of at least one.

This week, I wish to talk about two similar things which I’ve read in multiple books – The Zeignarik effect, and the 90% Rule or (Hell Yes or No)

When there is too much to do in limited time there are many things that don’t feel good. The first issue is constant dissatisfaction in the work you are doing as you know it is subpar and not where you wish to be in.

It is easy to lose your flow state of work.

You must’ve experienced that sometimes when you are extremely focused on something you lose track of time. Time must’ve gone by quickly! This extreme focus gives the best results and is called the Flow state.

There is a lack of focus on the task at hand as there are many other things going on in your head seeking your attention. This is where Zeignarik effect which I first read in Limitless by Jim Kwik plays a major role.

Incomplete tasks create a level of tension that keeps that task at the front of the minds until it is completed.

For eg: A task that you were supposed to be doing might be running in your mind as you read this mail! But don’t go away already… Coz then you’d be thinking of completing this mail as you are doing other tasks! (Yes, I get extremely cheeky at times.)

So, what do we do?

  1. Just reduce the number of tasks you need to do. And make space for the tasks you wish to do and do them better.
  2. How to select what to do? Follow what Derek Sivers in Anything you want says the Hell Yes or No rule and management books call it the 90% rule. You must say No to everything by default. And say yes to only those things that make you go “HELLLLLL YEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH”. Check the TMT where I mention the how to’s in detail.
  3. To tackle the Zeignarik effect, there are two ways to go about it. The first is to just do it. If it is a task that can be done within 5 minutes, just do it.
  4. Some tasks can’t be done immediately, especially when you have dependencies on others. Make rituals that help you keep the thought at bay. Schedule it on your calendar so that your brain believes that the task will be done.
  5. Whenever stray thoughts of tasks create tension in your mind, use a Distraction Diary, where you write down all the thoughts to push them away. But, reflect on them at the end of the day or work hours. I came across this in Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Two Minute Task

You don’t always go with your feelings to go “HELL YES”, coz that feeling may be temporary. Follow these steps so you can figure out stuff yourself. I learnt about these steps in Essentialism by Grek McKeown.

  1. Think about the big picture of what you want to do and NOTE IT DOWN.
  2. Write down six parameters that any task has to satisfy. These parameters must ensure you get close to the big picture.
  3. Say Yes to only those which satisfy more than four of those parameters.
  4. In case of a tie, go with your feelings.

With that,
More Power to you!


I’m also really curious to know what are the things that make you go – “HELL YEAHHHHH”!!!

I hope this post was helpful!
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