Today while making lunch I realized that when I cut my sandwich into two halves it tastes better overall than when I eat it in one piece.
When I eat two halves of one sandwich, it feels like I am “completing” two things, not one.
It’s the same reason why we’d prefer to read two short books instead of one long book. Total number of pages read might be the same, but we feel more accomplished having completed two whole books.
It’s the same reason why breaking tasks into bits (and then checking off each bit on our to-do list) makes us feel more accomplished and energized than leaving one, big task on the to-do list, ever unchecked.
We are completionists by nature.
Sometimes this is a bad thing. Rational decision makers must ignore sunk costs. Abandon that book that stopped being interesting at page 50!
Other times the completionist instinct lets us hack our way to more pleasure with no cost, such as the halved sandwich technique.
Of course, now that you’ve read this post, upon eating your newly-halved sandwich it will be hard to separate pleasure caused by heightened completionist success versus pleasure caused by a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Either way, you’ll feel more pleasure, and have something to think about as you eat.