Segregation of gains that is. What does that mean? Well, according to behavioral economic theory, it brings people more pleasure to experience multiple, smaller positive outcomes (gains) than one big gain. This means you’d experience more overall pleasure finding two fifty-dollar bills a couple hours apart than you would finding a single hundred-dollar bill. Even though you’re $100 richer in each case, experiencing a smaller gain twice feels better psychologically.
Of course, actually measuring whether this is true is impossible. That doesn’t discredit the idea though. For example, think about opening presents on Christmas. Would you prefer having all your presents placed in one big box to unwrap? Of course not! Even though you’d end up with all the same stuff and it would save a lot of time wrapping, it’s a lot more fun unwrapping them one at a time.
You can use the theory of segregating gains to be more productive too. For example, if you feel overwhelmed or a task feels “too big”, try breaking it up into smaller pieces. Instead of telling yourself how good it will feel to finish, try to experience that positive feeling multiple times on a smaller level throughout the process. You’ll experience a steady stream of accomplishment and resulting good feelings. Just doing something productive that moves you in the right direction does wonders psychologically. Setting smaller goals and actually hitting them boosts morale and creates positive momentum. It’s an encouraging approach to accomplishing an otherwise daunting task or project.