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Task Activation Cost

Many founders fall into the trap of “perpetual motion,” mistaking activity for progress.

They mistake fast for moving forward. The irony of this? In trying to accelerate, we’re actually slowing down. We get bogged down by the cognitive load of constant switching.

Activation cost

Each time we jump between tasks, our brains experience an “activation cost.”

This means they expend extra energy clearing the mental “rules” from the previous task and setting up new ones for the next task. This constant drain on our mental resources reduces our ability to focus and perform at our best.

This constant task-switching leads to:

  • Burnout: Feeling constantly overwhelmed takes a toll on your mental and emotional well-being.
  • Mistakes: Divided attention increases the chance of errors and missed details.
  • Inefficiency: Context switching comes with a mental “cost,” hindering your overall productivity.

Sequencing and Grouping for Focus

To avoid this drain and improve your return on effort, you need to sequence your tasks.

This means grouping similar tasks together based on their required cognitive demands. Think of it like having all your ingredients prepped before cooking (chefs call this Mise En Place) — instead of constantly running back and forth.

By grouping tasks, you reduce the activation cost for each task and improve your focus.

Sequencing Sprint Strategy

  1. Categorise: Group your tasks based on your energy level (high-energy tasks like brainstorming, low-energy tasks like checking emails) or cognitive demand (similar tasks that use the same brain functions).
  2. Plan: List your tasks within each category and sequence them logically. Prioritise high-importance tasks within each category.
  3. Sprint: Schedule your tasks based on your natural energy levels throughout the day. Minimise context switching and maximise focus.

Try sequencing and categorising your tasks.

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