If you’ve been struggling with your work, personal projects, or getting your business off the ground due to some annoying lack of productivity then you’ll be surprised how easy it actually is to kiss most of such problems goodbye.
Being self-employed for a while, I’ve found one shortcut that does more for my productivity than anything else I tried over the years. The shortcut is all about doing the simple tasks first.
Now, what I mean by that. If you’re a working human being, no matter if you’ve a 9-5 day job, or work for your own business, you surely have a number of tasks to handle each day.
Some of those tasks are inevitably more complicated than others. Some can even be considered crucial for a given day (something you have to do in a day no matter what). And those crucial tasks are often the most stressful ones as well.
The problem with them is that we often feel inclined to handle them first, before attending to anything else. While it’s a good concept in theory, it rarely works out in the real life.
It’s all because those crucial tasks are often the most difficult and time consuming ones at the same time.
The initial resistance
Here’s my theory (feel free to disagree if you have another opinion … I’m no psychologist or anything). Every time we start to work we need some amount of time before we get in the zone and can reach our full velocity.
This is very similar to going to the gym. You can’t simply start your workout with heavy dumbbells right off the bat because it can only lead to injury. You have to warm up first.
Doing some intellectual work is not that brutal and it won’t lead to any sort of injuries, but if you try to do the crucial/difficult stuff first, it can actually lead to huge inefficiency.
That’s because you simply can’t skip the part where you have to get your thoughts together and get in the groove of working. That’s why the approach I like to advise tends to work better for most people.
The thing is very straightforward, but let me mention it here again: Do what’s simple first, and once you’re at your full velocity, move on to the crucial tasks.
By simple I mean all the tasks that won’t take too much time, don’t require any preparation, and can be done right away, first thing in the morning (or whenever you usually start your work).
It’s not procrastination, damn it!
This is usually the first objection people tend to have … “Isn’t doing the simple stuff just procrastinating on the important?”
At least if you do it consciously the way I advise here.
There’s a subtle difference between warming up and procrastinating.
Warming up is starting with the basic tasks only to get in the zone, and then, once you’re up to your full potential, switching to the crucial stuff.
Procrastinating is doing the simple stuff all day even though you’re perfectly capable to handle the difficult.
It gets you going and in the mood
You see, the main reason behind starting your day with the simple things is to save you from wasting your time struggling with the difficult tasks when you’re clearly not ready to handle them effectively yet.
Now, there’s only one thing you have to be careful with. By no means I advise you to do some unimportant stuff.
This is not about filling your morning with garbage. This is all about doing what’s already on your to-do list, but handling it in a somewhat reverse order.
Don’t ever manufacture any tasks just for the sake of it. This is how a serious procrastination problem usually starts.
Take the steps
For those of you who prefer a more step-by-step styled advice, here it is:
- Start your day by assessing your to-do list and picking the crucial and the easy tasks.
- (New element!) Do 20 minutes of reading just to get your brain going when drinking the morning coffee.
- Handle the easy tasks first. Do 2-3 of those.
- (New element!) No matter what you do, don’t start your day with email.
- Move on to the crucial tasks.
As you can see, there are two new steps.
First of them – reading – is a nice morning activity all in itself. And the second one – not starting with email – is one of the simplest productivity tricks out there. The thing is that if you start with email and you’re not careful, you can end up spending two hours of stressful work in your inbox, instead of just warming up smoothly (our main goal here).
That’s it. Nothing fancy about this idea, right? Now it’s your turn to speak up. Do you have any productivity shortcuts of your own you’d like to share?