My article was originally featured on best selling author and keynote speaker Robert Murray’s website here: How to Plan with Your Brain in Mind
Today, how most people plan goes directly against how their brain operates.
In fact, how most of us plan encourages procrastination, negatively impacts our mood, over commits our schedule and disrupts our memory.
The problem often boils down to how we view each week and how we map out our projects.
In the past, I would always overestimate what I was capable of accomplishing each week. And at the same time I would underestimate the amount of time projects and tasks would take. I would start each day and each week with high hopes and anticipate getting everything done. But by the time 5pm rolled around or Friday hit, I would often feel behind schedule and frustrated as I stared at another incomplete TO-DO list.
Why do we overestimate what we can do?
In a nutshell, we don’t spend enough time planning and breaking down our projects. We have a tendency to schedule each project as a whole into our calendar, instead of the steps that make it up.
For instance, if I have a presentation due on Friday, I might schedule on Monday at 10am that I’m going to work on that presentation…… Not factoring in the reality that there are four different steps that require me to complete the presentation: research, writing the script, creating the slide deck and rehearsing it all. When we don’t take the time to break down a project at the beginning of the week and assess the amount of time each step will take, it makes it hard to accurately forecast our week and goes against how our brain operates.
For example, a better way to plan the week and this project would look like this:
Monday 10am- Noon: Research
Tuesday 3pm-5pm: Write the script
Wednesday 10am-1pm: Create the slide deck
Thursday: 9am-11am: Rehearse
Here are 4 reasons why chunking your projects down and scheduling each step into your calendar supports your brain and it’s performance:
1) Destroys Procrastination:
The biggest reason we procrastinate is often because a particular project seems too big. It can feel like there are so many moving parts that it can be overwhelming trying to determine where to begin. So we avoid it, until a deadline forces us to take action.
However, if we’ve already taken the time to break down each project, there is no guessing on what our first step is. It’s already been determined and scheduled.
2) Dopamine Release:
It’s been proven that when we accomplish something, dopamine gets released in our brain. Dopamine is the feel good neurotransmitter that gets released even when we complete small tasks. The problem is if we are attacking each project as a whole, we’re never actually accomplishing anything until it’s completely done.
By breaking up the steps and accomplishing them in small chunks, you get that sense of achievement and dopamine gets released along the way. This will improve your mood and well-being throughout the week.
3) Memory Enhancement:
Our brain remembers things that have a beginning and an end. For example, if you are watching a hockey game, you will likely remember what particular events happened from the beginning of the 2nd period to the end of it.
When you schedule specific parts of a project into your calendar and attack them at certain times, your brain is able to remember what you worked on during those time periods more accurately. Which will enable you to better recall information from the project at a later date.
4) Accurately Forecast Your Week:
Finally, by chunking your projects down at the beginning of each week and then scheduling those steps into your calendar, it gives you a more realistic forecast of how much time you have to get everything done. By doing this, you will likely realize when you are overestimating or underestimating things. It will enable you to set more realistic expectations that will enable you to follow through on your commitments and feel good about it all at the end of each week.