Newton’s First Law Applies to Productivity, Too

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There’s plenty of chatter and research surrounding the so-called “laws” of productivity, but even the laws we use to govern other areas of our lives can be applicable when there are things that need to get done. Newton’s Laws of Motion can be adapted to productivity, especially the first one.

What’s Newton’s first law all about?

Newton’s first law of motion is this: “An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.”

Obviously, he was talking about physics here, but in productivity spaces around the web, people who spend their time thinking about more efficient ways to get things done have started applying his wisdom to people. It makes sense: When you’re on a roll, say, cleaning your house, you kind of get into the zone and keep going. When you’re sitting on the couch dreading and putting off starting to work, it’s really easy to stay there and do nothing. 

How can Newton’s law be applied to productivity? 

There’s actually been some research done into how adapting a mindset of getting into and staying in motion can help you be more productive. One review of its use by healthcare workers in a nuclear medicine department found it “novel,” but also able to “have a positive impact on productivity,” for instance. 

The trick isn’t staying in motion, but getting into it, so here’s where you should start. Try adhering to the two-minute rule, or the practice of immediately doing something if it will take two minutes or less. If an email comes in, respond to it right away. If you need to take the trash out, do it the minute you notice. If you have to cancel an appointment, call that second. Getting in the habit of doing smaller tasks immediately can help you build momentum. It works for me, which is why I frontload my to-do list with simple tasks instead of opting for the “eat the frog” approach, which calls on you to do your biggest, most demanding duties first.

Yesterday, for instance, I had to confirm a ticket order, fill out a W9, order my graduation attire, clean out my entire clothing rack, and do a 12-page paper. By doing the three smaller things first, I built up some positivity and momentum, which really helped push me to do the more daunting stuff later in the day. It’s rewarding to see checkmarks fill up your to-do list, so knock out whatever you can in the moment to get that rush and make you want to secure the checkmarks on the bigger items. If you’re using a ۱-۳-۵ to-do list (and you should be!) try flipping your day so you tackle the five small tasks before the three medium-sized ones and large one so you can harness the power of Newton’s law yourself. 

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