"water in the basement" - my new go-to line for a reason to procrastinate

(a little while, or maybe till tomorrow when the plumber comes)

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Jan 12Liked by David Epstein

Less is more as the saying goes!

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I love how you're sharing the way you apply your research to your own life. Reflect early and often is a good approach, as is considering life an experiment. All too often, the rhetoric these days is about finding The Solution. Which has a lot of frightening connotations now that I've typed it. But let's remember that the real hero will always be MacGyver, working with the resources he has to fix the problem he's facing. Creativity and a good dose of "someone's got to do this and today it's me" is ultimately what we're going to need to get through today (and tomorrow).

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Another great post and great timing for the start of the semester.

Totally agree that the solution is to do less. One of the best ways to understand this is time blocking as recommended by Cal Newport. I'm sure he's recommended this to you :).

Time blocking has helped me to concretely understand how bad I am at this planning process and given me the opportunity to understand how long the things on my to-do list actually take so that I can adapt my approach. Reflection! Feedback! Prototyping Mindset!

Over the past year I’ve used Cal’s Time Block Planner and have found it very helpful to this end. Highly recommend it! The latest version which has a spiral binding is particularly good. https://www.timeblockplanner.com

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This might be my favorite newsletter of yours, which is really saying something (I hope you won't actually force me to rank order them though...). It's comforting to know that even Nobel laureates don't just similarly fall prey to the planning fallacy, but do so spectacularly and even after pausing to reflect on what they know about other teams' performance on a similar task. As someone who has a long history of over-committing, I have made boundary setting and taking on less my primary goal. I think it's especially difficult for idea people who are easily excited about starting projects and experiments. But what are we besides a work in progress? Thanks for another great read, David!

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Lenin was evil, no questions, but he was a masterful marketer. Titles of some of his works were golden.And we know that he has not used editors 🙂

The title of one of his work was Better Less But Better.

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This idea resonates every time I come across it. It reminds me of the Discipline is Destiny post where you and Ryan Holiday talked about keeping the main thing the main thing. From what I've read and heard about Cal Newport's next book (https://www.amazon.com/Slow-Productivity-Accomplishment-Without-Burnout/dp/0593544854), it sounds like this might be a similar theme. Any chance you've read an advanced copy?

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I decided to focus on one single goal this year. Goal Minimalism. I only put 3 things on my to-do list per day. If it is a particularly busy day, they might be 3 very easy things, but they get me a tiny bit closer to my ultimate goal.

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Thanks for this great post! I'm currently looking for a job and have certainly fallen prey to the planning fallacy - I thought it would take a maximum of two months, but four months later and I am still chugging along. Similar to so many things we hope to accomplish in this world, my job search is also dependent on other people - no matter how efficiently I get through my to do lists and applications, if they are not reviewed for months, I won't get any closer. How does this dependence on other people's time frame affect the planning fallacy? Are we worse or better at predicting the productivity of others?

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Guilty as charged on those "fungal-branching to-do lists". I remember folding A4 pieces of paper into a booklet, and filling all four sides with a weeks worth of tasks - in black and red ink. The tasks would inevitably take on new forms week after week as I struggled to keep up. I don't make those lists anymore. But instead I do lists of threes now, which are much more manageable.

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I was so delighted about this post that it's the first one of yours I shared :)

Not that I didn't enjoy others, but this one is as we say in Brazilian Portuguese:

'um tiro na mosca'. A literal translation for this expression would be 'a shot on the fly'.

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This comes at the perfect moment!

I experienced that exactly last Friday,. Having used the Todoist app (which is good by the way), I went to add tasks with a bit too much enthusiam. They scarily piled up day after during the week to finally flood my already-tired brain with a tsunami of overwhelm.

Luckily, I realized what was happening and why during the afternoon and took the right radical measure: forget about any task but the 2-3 most impactful for the day.

And I finished them late and exhausted, but accomplished and relaxed after a few hours of deep work.

I restored my headspace instantly by reducing the number of tasks.

I'm back to this more productive habit you suggest: setting 1 main task and 1 or 2 bonus ones.

This letter should be titled " Why You Should Plan Less To Get More Done".

Damn, now I want to use if for writing one of mine. Can I steal?

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This is unrelated, but I believe most people here might benefit:

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Love this and I’ve heard this story a few times actually. I’m guessing you’ve read “How Big Things Get Done”? Because this definitely feels like a failed forecasting exercise that can happen for people / groups who haven’t done something very similar before!

The planning presents a fake sense of control / process. The author of that book advocates instead for doing and prototyping and derisking aggressively!

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I absolutely relate to this!

I am keen to know your thoughts on the 2 main approaches to starting your workday (as you have mentioned it in the article)-

1. Eat the frog - Work on the most important tasks that will produce the most impactful results

2. Start with easier tasks - To gain some momentum and satisfaction

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This really clicked with me, making me realize that my Priorities list had become a To Do list. So I started paring it down to what are the one or two things that would make me feel better if they got done today. Everything else is on a separate list. It's been working for me so far. I'm two for two!

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