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Daily Action and Productivity – When More is Less

Daily Action Fail #2: The “More is Better” Approach

Welcome to Part 2 in my series on why most people fail when trying to use small daily actions to get things done. For your convenience, here is the intro to the series:

“Research shows that consistent, daily action, even just 15 minutes per day, will help you reach your goals faster, and is more fun and rewarding, too. People who work in short, daily sprints make more progress and are more creative than those who work in the occasional larger blocks of time.

And yet, people are not necessarily successful when they try this approach. I think this is a shame; everyone can use this technique to help them make steady progress on their VIPP — Very Important Procrastinated-On Project.

The thing is, most people go about this the wrong way. In this series of blog posts, I’m going to examine the reasons that people fail with small daily actions. I’ll also help you with concrete steps as to what to do instead.”

In this blog post, I’ll tell you about the often disastrous “More is Better” Approach to Small Daily Actions, in which you decide that your small work session went so well that you must do giant work sessions from now on.
Let’s say you have decided on your VIPP (Very Important Procrastinated-On Project). And having read my last blog post, you have stopped using the “Scattershot Approach” to doing your daily action.

Here’s what goes wrong with the “More is Better” Approach. 

Let’s say you decide that you will work 20 minutes a day on the specific Very Important Procrastinated-On Project you’ve chosen, working on creating a new course.

  • The 1st day, you work for 20 minutes, and you’re proud of yourself, because you had put this off for months


  • The 2nd day, you work for 20 minutes, and you’re mildly dissatisfied, because you feel like you could do more


  • The 3rd day, you work on it for 4 hours, until you’re totally burned out, but feel satisfied because you got a lot done.


  • The 4th day, you’re so burnt out that you can’t even look at your VIPP; besides, after all that work, you deserve a day off.


  • The 5th day, you decide to wait until next week; after all, the work you do on day 3 more than covers you.


  • The next week, you find you just can’t face it, so you put it off for a few weeks.


  • The 5th WEEK: What Very Important Procrastinated-On Project?


Because you assumed that more is better, you’ve fried your brain cells. All that work may have been intellectually satisfying, but at the most primal level, your brain cells are screaming, “Don’t torture us like that! Don’t you love us any more?”

This is the danger of “Bingeing” on your work. Although it may work occasionally for some people, if you are working on a “Procrastinated-On Project,” then you can assume that there’s a reason you didn’t want to work on it before. Whether it was just boring or terrifying or plain old not fun, there was a good reason.

Just because you break through that barrier and start working on it, doesn’t mean that the avoidance mechanism of procrastination won’t rear its ugly head again if you’re not careful. Luckily, there are ways around the bingeing problem.

  • Give yourself at least a week of working at your original short time period on a daily basis.
  • When you’ve decided you want to do more work, set a timer for your goal time (let’s say again that it was 20 minutes).
  • When the timer goes off, stop.
  • Spend 10 minutes doing something different – dance, make yourself a cup of tea, look out the window.
  • Turn the timer back on, and work another 20 minutes.

Stick to this method, because it works! And here’s why:

  • It allows your brain cells to recover a little
  • It gives you time to notice whether you’re feeling burned out or close to it

You can repeat these work sessions, but if you feel resistant to starting a new work session, don’t do it! The resistance in this case is a warning sign that you might be about to overdo it.
One small daily action is enough to get you big results in the long run.
Remember: More is not always better!


Have you ever felt the unpleasant aftermath of bingeing? Do you think you would tend to want to do more and more work, and be dissatisfied with short work sessions? I’d love to hear your take on this technique!


4 thoughts on “Daily Action and Productivity – When More is Less

  1. I really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing it.

    It reminds of the concept of compound interest.

    “One small daily action is enough to get you big results in the long run.”

    There’s a great book about personal goals called ‘The Slight Edge’ by Jeff Olson. It really demonstrates the benefit of one small daily action.

    Mark | Productive Physician recently posted..Finish: How to Defeat Perfectionism and Conquer Your GoalsMy Profile

  2. Laura said:

    I just reinjured my knee with the more is better approach. I didn’t realize how gentle I need be treated. Apparently that goes for my writing too. I do burn out faster than I want to. Then I go insane when I don’t work. It’s torture. Thank you for reminding me what sanity even looks like.

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