DO THE HARDEST THING FIRST!
BOTTOM LINE: Some items on your “to do” list are just much harder than others. Whether it’s because a task is out of your comfort zone from a technical perspective or because it brings up ALL THE FEARS or because it’s going to require a difficult phone call or conversation, it’s challenging to motivate yourself to do it first thing in the morning (any morning). I get it – it’s hard for me, too. But there are so many reasons it’s a good idea, which I’m sharing in this post.
If you are overwhelmed with all the productivity advice that’s out there, this is an easy little thing you can implement that will dramatically increase your productivity and your confidence in yourself (bonus!). Getting the hardest thing done first will allow you see yourself as the kind of person that gets stuff done. You’ll stop seeing yourself as someone who procrastinates and start seeing yourself as the capable woman that you really are. Here’s why it’s worth trying:
HARD STUFF TAKES EFFORT
As I’ve mentioned, there are lots of different reasons that a task can be hard. And while some hard tasks might not take that much time (especially if it’s just a phone call or a very brief chat), there are a lot of tasks that are hard because they’ll require a lot of effort and focus. It’s tempting to leave these kinds of things until the end of the day in the hope that you’ll feel like it – but there’s only like a 1% chance you’re going to feel more motivated at the end of the day than you do at the beginning. Am I right here?! Certainly my experience….
Accomplishing the hardest task first will help you make sure you’ve got enough time to get it completed. And we all know that if you push it back to the end of the day it’s highly likely to get pushed back even further. Which leads me to my next point:
YOU HAVE “X” AMOUNT OF WILLPOWER
There is a scientific reason that you make your worst decisions at the end of the day. It’s called decision-fatigue and it’s the reason watch Netflix with a tub of ice cream after work instead of doing the workout you planned. We’ve all been there, right?
A helpful way to think about the way decision fatigue works is to think of your ability to make good decisions like a water well. Every morning (if you get a decent amount of sleep), you start with the same amount of good decision-making ability – a full well of water. Every time you make a decision, whether it’s an important one or not, you are drawing from that reservoir. As the day goes on you continue drawing from the well, your ability to make good decisions depletes. And once you’ve used up all of your decision-making energy, you have no willpower to rely on and bad decisions begin to happen!
Since decision fatigue is a VERY real thing, working on the hardest thing first means that you’ll be able to complete that particular task to the best of your ability. Common sense, right? If it’s going to be hard anyway, at least make it a little easier on yourself by doing it BEFORE your brain is fried. And you’ll be less likely to convince yourself you should put it off until tomorrow…..or the next day….
Quick thought… this is why it’s good to select your outfit the night before. This way, you don’t waste your best decision making energy on looking cute (I’m NOT saying it’s not important, but you’ll most likely choose the same outfit if you do it the night before and achieving your #goals is important too). Feeling smarter, right?!
I think we all know how fabulous it feels to check off a task on your to-do list, right? (It’s why we all LOVE handwritten to-do lists). So you know that it feels EVEN BETTER when that task is the most difficult on your list. It’s such a relief! And the rest of the day feels like a breeze once it’s out of the way. Plus you’re not spending the day in dread, so it’s easier to be in a better mood and so much more productive. Completing the hardest task first will create momentum in your day – and that can be the difference between one that’s good and one that’s not.
BOTTOM LINE OF REALITY
Working hard is important, but there comes a time when more effort doesn’t necessarily yield more results – it’s called the law of diminishing returns. Most of us respond to demands at work / ourselves by putting in longer hours which inevitably take a toll on us physically, mentally and emotionally and make us much less productive. So at some point, putting in those extra hours isn’t actually helping – which is sort of counter-intuitive but makes sense when you think about it.
A huge realization for me was that my brain gets tired, but I’ve realized that when it comes to creative work, not only is there a diminishing return but at a certain point, writing more actually produces a negative result because bad writing isn’t just bad – it actually creates more work for yourself as you need a greater amount of time to revise and edit.
But how does this relate to tackling the hardest task first? Well basically it’s about doing what’s important. You’ve only got a limited amount of time before you become unproductive and it starts to have a negative impact your work, health, relationships etc so you need to get the important things done. And the important things are usually the hardest – so do them first! Be productive.
I LOVE to think about this in terms of the 80/20 principle that Tim Ferriss talks about in his book The Four-Hour Work Week – which is that 20% of your effort creates 80% of your results.
Ok, enough said….I hope I’ve convinced you to begin your work day by completing the most difficult task FIRST. Or, at the very least help you consider it. I know this is NOT easy, but it will make you much, much more productive!
Let me know what you’ve done to increase productivity.