Beware Of ‘Completion Bias’ When Working Through Your To-Do List

Beware Of ‘Completion Bias’ When Working Through Your To-Do List

Checking things off of your to-do list feels great, and that feeling can even make you more productive. That same feeling, however, can also keep you from tackling larger, more important tasks. Photo by LaShawn Wiltz.

“Completion bias” is when your brain specifically seeks the pleasure completing a task brings. Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Bradley Staats, an associate professor at North Carolina University, explain that completion bias can trick you into focusing on only small tasks because you’ll want to experience that positive feeling more. You spend the day taking on small, easy tasks (like answering emails, doing busy work or other general housekeeping tasks) and feel like you’re being productive. But when you look back at what you accomplished in the day, you realise you barely made a dent in your actual work. Unchecked, completion bias can bring your productivity to a grinding halt, and even ruin your ability to make a decent to-do list.

To fix it, Gino and Staats suggest you mix up your to-dos so you’re not just taking on the small stuff. Do an easy task, then use that good feeling as momentum to take on a more difficult task, and repeat. And when you make your to-do lists, be sure to include the more difficult tasks that will impact your important work along with the easy stuff. You can learn more at the link below.

Your Desire to Get Things Done Can Undermine Your Effectiveness [Harvard Business Review]


  • That’s what i’m doing today.
    I know I have 10 hours left on a job setup that I will not be able to finish before Easter.
    I am finding myself doing some unrelated small jobs first.

    Back to the grindstone.

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