Did you make your to do list this morning? Or did you do it last night before bed? Despite when you made the list, what did you put first?
Several years ago I heard about a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog! The title came from a saying that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, that is probably going to be the hardest thing you do all day. Everything after that will be easy by comparison. Another popular phrase is slay the dragon, meaning take whatever you are dreading the most and do it first.
Photo by Mastery of Maps of Flickr
This is a great way too start your day for several reasons:
It builds character. Doing that difficult thing first takes resolve. We are by nature procrastinators. Once you get in the habit of slaying the dragon, it becomes easier.
It eases your mind. I got into this habit when I realized how much of my energy went into worrying about the dragon. I would spend my whole day putting off that phone call or conversation. But it had to be done. By getting it out of the way early, I didn’t have to think about it again.
It makes your other tasks seem easier. We usually like to spend time on things we can do easily or quickly, then the hard stuff gets pushed aside. When you tackle the worst first, the rest become less.
It shows you are proactive. If the boss asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, it looks much better when you can say it’s already taken care of.
It builds momentum: You’ll also find you can fly through your your task list faster once the frog has been eaten. Easier tasks are, well, easier! You also won’t drag them out in an attempt to forestall the meeting with that dragon.
It makes you younger. Okay, not really, but it can help reduce stress and tension, both of which will help you live longer.
It’s not always practical to hit the hard stuff head on. Your dragon may be a presentation that doesn’t start until 3:00pm. Or you may need to return a dozen client emails before your go have that long meeting with your boss.
You also will have days where you have a ton of small, insignificant tasks that you could easily complete for a morale boost. There are days when I have 15 or 20 nagging little things on my list starting at me. Sometimes I will take an hour to knock most of them out if it means that I can focus on the big stuff afterwards.
This should be the exception. When able, take on the most difficult of your tasks first. It will give you more energy, reduce your worry, and make you more productive.
Do you start with the hardest thing first, or do you like to build momentum with easy tasks?