Mark Twain said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” Thus spurred self-development expert Brian Tracy’s book entitled Eat That Frog. He and many experts help us answer the age old question, “Should I tackle the easy tasks or difficult tasks first?”
If you’re like me, deciding what to tackle first can slow down your productivity before you even get started on your work. That’s why I typically recommend planning tomorrow’s tasks today.
When we delay the decision and thus, action, we are procrastinating. There several ways to tackle procrastination, and today we’ll add another one to our tool kit.
3 Strategies for What to Tackle First
- As Stephen R. Covey preached in his best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Put first things first.”
This leads to a logical question: What are first things? Covey steers us to quadrant II in his “Time Management Matrix.”
Covey writes, “Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things that are not urgent, but are important. It deals with things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, preparation – all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren’t urgent.”
2. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, Wall Street Journal bestselling authors of The One Thing, encourage us to ask “The Focusing Question” to determine what to do first. The Focusing Question is, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
3. If we are to eat our frog first, as Brian Tracy recommends, then we start with our most challenging tasks of the day.
My Recommendation for Which Task to Tackle First
Start your day with the task which best lands at the intersection of all three: “Put first things first,” “The ONE Thing,” and the “most challenging.”
For example, I might start my day by working on an upcoming presentation for coaches, writing a blog post, or delivering a workshop. Each of these tasks might be the most important thing in my day, is challenging (i.e., takes more energy and brain power than meetings) and produces results toward my ONE Thing. For me, these are high impact activities. That’s where you want to start on your to-do list.
- If we “put first things first” we will put our time, energy, and effort into the areas of our work where we can have the greatest contribution.
- If we focus on our “ONE Thing,” our efforts will be purpose-driven, laser-focused, and results-producing.
- If we we start our days with “our most challenging tasks,” we seize willpower (we typically have more in the morning), maximize energy (also have more in the morning), and throttle procrastination before the hard task seems mountainous.
Do The Most Important Thing First
Start your workday with what is most important, aligns with your ONE Thing, and will show results. Don’t start with busy work. In any organization I find there are two types of people, those who keep busy and those who contribute to success. Be the latter. Make your first thing count. After that, the rest of the toads will be easier to swallow.
- Book: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
- Book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- Book: The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- Post: Do What Matters Most Today: 4 Tips to Get You Started
- Post: Tackle Your Procrastination Problem
- Post: How to Get More Done with the Power of Wunderlist