Defining Limits: How Many Tasks Per Day?

Posted Monday, May 8, 2023 by Sri. Tagged JOURNAL

This is the second week of a May Day Productivity Challenge that coworker E is running. The idea is that you set 1-3 daily tasks that have concrete and measurable criteria for completion. If you finish a task, you get 3 points! If you partially completed the task, that's 1 point! 0 points if you didn't attempt it. A cool wrinkle is that each participant guesses what the average score of the group will be at the end of the two week challenge.

I picked the following super-doable targets to be completed Monday-Friday, as I wanted to participate but also not create a giant expectation over my head.

  1. Write 150 words minimum for a journal post
  2. Find 3 items to throw away
  3. Spend 15 minutes working on my Shopify store

While sharing reflections on the first week went, I had a surprising insight regarding my stamina for doing tasks each day: It's not so much the difficulty as it is the number of task starts and their corresponding context switches that tire me out. After doing even those three "easy" tasks, I found that doing followup tasks became extremely difficult. On average, I could manage a major cooking task for dinner followed by cleanup, and perhaps one more push after a good long break.

Based on this, I'm hypothesizing that the daily number of task starts available for the day is around 4 or 5 when starting with a completely fresh mind+body; perhaps these are similar to "spoons" in spoon theorySpoon Theory: A metaphor for the limited "units of energy" one has available each day. You need a unit (spoon) for each task you start, so getting to the end of the day means you have to be careful in allocating them so they can cover all responsibilities. The expression, "I don't have the spoons, sorry" refers to having reached mental exhaustion. See spoon theory on Wikipedia.. This limit is really quite low.

The trick for optimizing use of my two slot+aux brain machinery might lie in creating scenarios rather than tasks to be performed. This is opposite of what most productivity gurus would say, but I think the scenario approach might be more suited to imaginative and pattern-seeking #AuDHDAuDHD: Autism and ADHD combined brains who also enjoy roleplaying! It is, after all, something we tend to be good at from maskingMasking: modifying one's outward behavior to fit-in to a social situation while also suppressing behaviors that would be perceived as 'weird' and harmful to one's safety within that context....why not do it for our own fun? So long as there is a task accounting step at the end of the session, and there's guiding instructions within line-of-sight accompanied by engaging conversation to give the work the immediacy that AuDHD brains like.