Today’s Twitter Gem is courtesy of Ellen Grove (@eegrove) who twitted a link to a “Brain Picking” article. I am a great admirer of Brain Picking. This is a great site for anyone looking for the intellectual stimulation associated with reading, smelling and tasting a fascinating and engaging book…without actually reading the book. The site is managed by Maria Popova who is doing an outstanding job at bringing out the best points from a large number of books covering almost every conceivable topic one could imagine, and more.
The concept of to-do lists is relevant to type of work we, project managers, do. I couldn’t imagine my working day without the use of to-do lists, check lists and alike. In fact, activities that lie at the practical end of work breakdown structures are glorified to-do lists.
The article, titled “A Brief History of the To-Do List and the Psychology of Its Success“, discusses the book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” (by New York Times science writer John Tierney and psychologist Roy F. Baumeister) and it focuses on the third chapter, titled “A Brief History of the To-Do List, From God to Drew Carey”.
In this chapter, summarises Popova,
Tierney and Baumeister dissect the sociocultural anatomy of our favorite organizational tool, from the storytellers who crafted the Bible and wrote the Genesis myth with its six-step world-creation plan, to Benjamin Franklin’s fastidious pursuit of virtue bound by goal-setting lists, to comedian Drew Carey’s quest for supreme personal productivity.
These anecdotes and pieces of cultural mythology are interwoven with ample psychology experiments from the past century and, ultimately, distilled into insight on how to make the to-list a tool of fulfillment rather than frustration.
An interesting observation brought up by Popova is that:
…our brain appears to be wired to nag about unfinished to-do list items as uncompleted tasks and unmet goals continue to pop up into our minds. This is called the Zeigarnik effect and explains phenomena like earworms — when you hear only a portion of song, the song is likely to run through your mind at odd intervals as your brain struggles to finish it. Originally, the Zeigarnik effect was believed to be the brain’s way of ensuring goals are eventually accomplished, by prodding you into urgency until they are. But recent research has shed new light on the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious in our cognitive to-do lists.
I am using Popova’s Brain Picking as a great starting point for analysis of interesting books and related topics. Quite often I have followed up with purchasing related books that I probably would not have come across otherwise. Highly recommended and a must have in your RSS feeder.
Think about it!