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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Is Avoiding Difficult Tasks And Doing Easy Tasks First Less Productive?

Is Avoiding Difficult Tasks And Doing Easy Tasks First Less Productive?

Procrastination is probably the biggest detriment to our productivity. Conventional wisdom dictates that the best thing you can do is make that procrastination constructive. When you don’t feel like doing one task, usually one that requires a lot of will- or brainpower, you do another, usually less labor-intensive task.

Recently, though, conventional wisdom has been challenged with something Penn State refers to as “pre-crastination.”[1] After doing a series of studies in which students pick up and carry one of two buckets, researchers theorized that many people prefer to take care of difficult tasks sooner rather than later. That theory poses the question of whether this pre-crastination or the more widely acknowledged constructive procrastination is more effective.

Here is a look at whether people should do difficult tasks early or later on to achieve maximum productivity.

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Doing Easy Tasks First

The Pros

One of the hardest parts of working is just getting started. Constructive procrastination eases this hardship, because working on easy tasks requires a smaller mental or physical commitment than if you tackled difficult tasks firsts.

If one of the foremost deterrents to your productivity is simply getting going, it makes a lot of sense to save the difficult tasks for when you’re in more of a groove.

The Cons

If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day. — Mark Twain

On the surface, there don’t seem to necessarily be any disadvantages to doing easy tasks first. However, in Eat That Frog, the book writeen by Brian Tracy challenges that.

Based on the above quote from Mark Twain, Eat That Frog encourages avoiding procrastination, even if that procrastination is constructive. Tracy wants you to “eat that frog,” i.e. do your difficult tasks quickly because the longer it’s on your plate, the harder it will become to do the thing you’re dreading. If you have a habit of dreading things, Eat That Frog makes a solid argument to hold off on your easy tasks until later in the day.

Doing Difficult Tasks First

The Pros

Brian Tracy postulates in Eat That Frog that if you do your difficult tasks first, your other tasks won’t seem so bad. After all, after you eat a frog, even something unappetizing will seem downright delectable.

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Tracy also recommends that, if you have to eat two frogs, you should eat the uglier one first. The metaphor is a very easy way to get your head around the new concept of pre-crastination.

If all of your tasks seem somewhat torturous to you, you might be able to ease the pain by getting rid of the ugliest “toads” as quickly as you can.

The Cons

The primary disadvantage of doing your difficult tasks first is probably that it will make it especially hard to get started on your workday.

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A lot of people aren’t exactly at their peak performance mode when they enter the office. They need to ease into the workday, maybe have a cup or two of coffee to stimulate them.

If that’s you, doing your most difficult tasks first would probably be a costly mistake. Hold off on “eating those frogs” until you have the willpower and fortitude to choke them down.

Conclusion

Should you do easy or difficult tasks first? It seems like a cop-out to say that it depends on the person, but sometimes that’s the honest answer, and that is definitely the case here.

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Hopefully this article helps inform you of what type of worker you are, offering clues to whether you fall into the constructive procrastination or pre-crastination camps. Good luck on your pursuit of maximum productivity!

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Featured photo credit: Courtney Dirks via flickr.com

Reference

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps

How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps

Taking some time off from your busy routine is not only normal; it is essential. But if you find yourself taking too many days off, unable to achieve anything, chances are you are lazy.

But why do people succumb to laziness even when they know they have things to do and places to go?

It might be due to a fear of failure, an overwhelming list of tasks to achieve, or a lack of motivation for your job.

Whatever the reason may be, it is time to identify ways to overcome laziness. All you need is a little mental stimulation to recharge yourself and feel inspired to accomplish your tasks.

If you’re struggling with the daily grind, here are a few simple tips to overcome laziness and increase your productivity.

1. Make Realistic Goals

It’s true that one of the key reasons people get lazy because they don’t find anything challenging enough to stir them up from their slumber.

But on the other hand, setting impractical goals can overwhelm you and may even send you down in a spiral of demotivation, indolence and guilt. Your objectives, therefore, must be achievable and stimulating.

A long list of to-dos can be overwhelming, it can cause a sensory overload and we end up ignoring all items on the list altogether. But don’t let it overpower you. Instead, ask yourself the following:

  • What do I want to achieve at the end of the project?
  • Is this what I love doing?
  • Why is achieving this task necessary?

Break down your daily, weekly, monthly goals into achievable tasks so that you can accomplish them one step at a time.

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2. Create A Plan Of Action

Specificity and direction can help you realize your goals faster, even if there is a hurdle along the way.

James Clear emphasizes “Implementation Intention” in his book, Atomic Habits. He says that being specific about your tasks takes away foggy notions associated with them.

This means making a specific plan for when, where, and how you will complete a particular task. Too many people try to achieve their goals without figuring out these essential details.

For example, you might think to yourself, “I want to start eating healthier” or “I am going to finish my book this month,” but hardly anyone ever talks about the exact steps they’ll take to achieve these goals.

For starters, specify what you are going to eat and at what time. Do you want to incorporate greens at lunch-time? Or do you want to cut carbs from your breakfast first?

Similarly, figure out how you’ll set apart time to complete that book, and know how many pages you’ll read in one go.

Once you have an implementation intention, you don’t have to wait for “the right time.” When the moment comes, you already have a pre-determined plan to follow.

3. Get An Accountability Partner

Productivity expert Laura Vanderkam recommends getting an accountability partner who can hold you responsible for the unaccomplished tasks.[1] Ensure your partner has a track record of accomplishing their goals and knows how to pull you out of the debilitating feelings left behind by demotivation and laziness.

When you have someone to answer to, you will work faster and more efficiently. You may also care about making a good impression on your accountability partner, thus also increasing the quality of your work.

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Learn How to Find an Accountability Partner to Help You Reach Your Goal.

4. Avoid Clutter and Distractions

One of the biggest hurdles to motivation is the environment you are in. This means that your surroundings must be free of diversions, noise and clutter.

You can make your space work-friendly by doing the following:

Personalizing Your Workspace

Imagine sitting down at a desk with a monthly calendar, a task list, and colorful pens all nicely kept in decorative holders and your pile of files and paper properly stacked in a corner.

Throw in additional photo frames, a motivational quote, or anything else that sparks your creativity for work.

Adopting A No-Storage Policy On Your Desk

Your desk shouldn’t be a dumping space for samples or litter. Make space for files and papers in your drawers or other storage boxes. With all the extra stuff on your desk all the time, you likely keep getting distracted.

Also check out these 15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done.

5. Incorporate High-Impact Movement In Your Routine

There is growing evidence that shows exercise as a promising intervention to overcome laziness and increase motivation.[2]

Particularly cardiovascular exercises get the blood pumping in your body, which leaves you energetic and motivated to take on the day.

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However, going to the gym or picking up weights is not everybody’s cup of tea. But don’t worry because other high-impact to moderate movements like Yoga are sometimes all you need to feel like you can take on the day and power through your to-do list.

Other examples of high-impact fun activities can be:

  • Go for a hike with a friend
  • Dancing to your favorite tunes
  • Take part in a cycling marathon
  • Join a kickboxing club with your friend

At the end of the day, it is all about including some form of activity in your routine, so it is better to do something that you already love!

6. Recognize Your Efforts Along The Way

One of the main reasons people tend to get demotivated is because they’re too hard on themselves. Acknowledge that you are a human and that you cannot achieve everything at once.

Start with completing little tasks and praise yourself for every little effort that you make. Negative self-talk and underestimating your abilities can derail you from your path – you have to be in your corner even if no one else is there yet.

Instead of saying things like, “I know I won’t be able to do this,” tell yourself, “This will be an interesting challenge; I will give it my best.”

7. Make Tedious Tasks Fun

Sometimes small, menial tasks seem so big and burdensome because they are tiresome and monotonous. It can be hard to muster the motivation to start something, but it is even harder to keep going at it if it bores you.

Here’s how to deal with tedious tasks:

Reward Yourself

When you have something to look forward to, it becomes easier to overcome laziness and accomplishing tasks on your to-do list. Motivate yourself with external rewards like a spa-day after completing a relatively challenging task or treating yourself to an expensive dinner.

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Get a Partner

Get a friend, a colleague, or sibling to pump you up and give you company as you do that dull, boring thing that’s been on your list for ages.

Having a friend or a partner to assist you certainly makes it easier to get things done. Sometimes companionship is better than solitude, especially if you know that you’ll procrastinate if left alone.

For example, chores like cleaning your room or washing the dishes will never be fun, but if you have someone to accompany you, chances are you can get them done more efficiently and faster.

Divide It Up!

“In order to achieve your goal, divide it up into smaller tasks.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

Breaking down your tasks into smaller ones can make you feel less overwhelmed. For example, if your goal is to read 50 pages every day, tell yourself you will read a few pages every time you have a cup of tea. This way, you get to read a few pages every-time and before you know it, you’ll have achieved your reading goal!

Bottom Line

Pressurizing yourself with negative thoughts and emotions is a surefire way to ensure that you’ll never stop procrastinating or overcome laziness.

Instead, be your own motivator. You don’t need a major life overhaul to wake up and fight the feelings of demotivation. Easy does it. All you need are small tweaks to your daily routine, a positive mindset and confidence to know that you have what it takes to achieve something!

Just remember to set manageable goals and play to your strengths. Also, know that it’s okay to call out for help if need be. Your coworkers, classmates, family and friends will not mind encouraging and motivating you.

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Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

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