How do you stay organized? There are those of us that do the easiest thing first and are often distracted from tackling difficult tasks by whatever seems urgent and easy to cross of the list. The omnipresent smart phone does its part to keep us stuck in the “urgent but unimportant” squares of Dwight Eisenhower’s famous productivity grid. Alternatively, you may always handle the hardest tasks first, but find yourself exhausted and grumpy too much of the time.
Do you do the easiest thing first? This can give you a sense of accomplishment. On days you are not feeling 100% or even 68% at least you can knock off a few things on the eternal to do list. Even taking your amazon returns to the post office or cleaning the trash out of your car can make you feel like you’re moving forward.
Do you do the hardest thing first? The “hardest” thing on your to do list doesn’t always mean it’s a complex project, physically difficult or requires a trip out-of-town. If you are emotionally drained, a conversation you need to have with a family member or employee might be the most difficult task on your list. If you are physically tired, your workout or yardwork might be the most taxing. If you are mentally fatigued, studying for an exam or working on your taxes could seem like a black hole of misery.
Doing the hardest thing first is a good idea if you have the right kind of energy for it. If you are emotionally not feeling great, the conversation you need to have will probably not go as well as it could. Wait until you are feeling more even keel or do some initial tasks that could prop you up emotionally, like talk to a counselor, take a restorative yoga class, journal. Do your workout or housework and use your higher physical energy reserves to flood yourself with endorphins to rev up your emotional state.
There is something to be said about plowing through a task no matter how the heck you’re feeling. That used to be the sign of being a grown up, as the moody, disgruntled parents a lot of us grew up with always reminded us. Doing a task whether you feel like it or not is often necessary, but if you consistently plow through things without considering whether or not you might choose otherwise, quality of life suffers.
Get creative about ways you might postpone, reschedule or delegate a task if you really aren’t up to it. For example, make coffee at home for a week instead of buying expensive lattes and use the money you save to have your car washed instead of doing it yourself. File an extension and give yourself extra time to do your taxes or save money by not eating out for a month and hire a CPA.
That being said, a lot of the time we think we are not up to a task but once we get going, realize we can get through it and sometimes even easily and with enjoyment. Set the bar low. Use a timer. If after fifteen minutes you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, let yourself off the hook and move on to a task you can accomplish or take the rest that you need.