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Work Smart

Why Saying This Four-Letter Word Can Transform Your Productivity

A neurochemical shift happens in your brain when you say "done" at the end of even the smallest tasks.

[Photo: OliverSved via Shutterstock]

Perfectionists are often reminded that "done is better than perfect." But it turns out there’s another reason we should all try to create more "done" moments in our workdays.

Saying the word done can help you get more accomplished on your to-do list. "Telling ourselves that we’re done creates not only an emotional reaction but a physiological response as well," says Leslie Sherlin, a psychologist, neuroperformance specialist, and the cofounder of the brain-training company SenseLabs.

According to Sherlin, when we’re concentrated on a task, the brain’s electrical activity is heightened. But the moment we say we’re done with something, the electrical activity in our brain shifts from being activated and engaged into a more relaxed state. "That relaxed state looks very similar to meditators or individuals who practice mindfulness techniques," he says.

A neurochemical shift in the brain occurs simultaneously. Serotonin—known as the body’s "feel-good chemical"—is released, creating a sense of calmness and satisfaction. This new relaxed state then allows us to take on the next task and builds our confidence. The more often you complete a task, the more confidence you build to achieve the next item on your to-do list, allowing you to take on even more challenging tasks.

"What we want to do if we want to set ourselves up for increasing productivity is put minor or smaller challenges in front of us so we build up that ‘done’ moment," says Sherlin.

How to create more opportunities to say "done":

Break Tasks Into Smaller Chunks

Productivity has a snowball effect. "As you start to take steps and you make a done moment, you’re increasing your confidence and your momentum towards moving forward," says Sherlin. While a task like "do taxes" may seem overwhelming, breaking it down into various stages that are easy to do—such as gather receipts and bank statements—not only makes the task more manageable but creates more opportunities for you to say "done."

Work In 10-Minute Segments

Choose a task and set a timer for 10 minutes. Do as much as you can during that time without getting distracted. When the timer goes off, say "done" and then select the next task you need to perform, setting the timer once again.

Visualize Yourself Completing The Task

Imagine yourself completing the task. "Even though we haven’t achieved the step yet, imagining that step having been achieved creates momentum and motivation, which allows us to get there much quicker," says Sherlin.

Take Microbreaks

Create opportunities to take microbreaks throughout the day. Going for a walk, grabbing a coffee, or calling a family member or friend allows the brain to reset so you can return to the task at hand more energized.