Welcome back to my series on being more productive and getting things done. Last week in Part 1, I shared how to kill those distractions that keep you from getting things done throughout the day.
In this post, I want to talk about why slaying your dragons will give you the momentum you need for a productive day.
While it’s easy to start the day with low hanging fruit, like those easy simple task such as checking your email, the most productive people focus on getting their most important and challenging task done first.
It's recommend that you slay your dragon (hardest task) first so you don't have that feeling of dread or doom luring over you all day. This also reduces your chance of procrastination and, most importantly, so you can have a big win first thing in the day.
As Mark Twain said,
“If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”
While you've probably heard this saying by Mark Twain before or even read the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, Harvard Business School recently released a paper called Task Selection and Workload: A Focus on Completing Easy Tasks Hurts Long-Term Performance to support this concept.
The purpose of the study was to discover how starting with easier tasks versus harder tasks might affect productivity.
After collecting data from an emergency department for 24 months involving over 90,000 patient encounters, the study concluded that completing easier tasks does create a short-term sense of satisfaction, but it can negatively impact long-term productivity.
In their paper they noted:
“By selecting the easier task (exploitation) an individual gets work done quicker – and likely feels good doing it. However, by choosing the harder task (exploration) one creates an opportunity to learn. Although always selecting the harder task may be suboptimal, if one continually chooses the exploitation path then longer-term performance suffers.”
In other words, a short-term victory is only momentary. Productivity increases a big task is accomplished.
By choosing the quick and easy task first, you're failing to push yourself to learn and grow thereby limiting your potential for long-term success. In addition, as your day goes on, your ability to focus diminishes making it more challenging to complete complicated or time-consuming activities.
More than likely that's why the study found that the physicians who habitually chose the easier tasks first were less profitable to the hospital in the long run.
That should be a big motivator for you to slay that dragon first thing everyday.
Only you know what your most difficult or complicated tasks, so be honest as you lay out your tasks for the day placing your hardest task at the top of the list.
If you choose your hardest jobs first, you’ll be able to breeze through the rest of your day with your easiest, and possibly, most enjoyable work. And ending your day on such a high and successful note will propel you into the next day, with enough energy and excitement, to help you once again, slay your dragons.
Join me next week for Part 3, Rise & Shine.
Live, laugh and unapologetically shine,