Creatures of Habit

Effective advice for lasting habit change

Worst Things First: Three Reasons to Do the Toughest Thing Right Away

Get things done by doing the worst thing first.

If you're like me and most folks in today's busy hurly-burly world, you always have a lot to do. It's a symptom of modern living and it's hard to escape. Although I think the pre-modern folks were probably fairly busy too . . .

Of course, there are things to do and then there are THINGS TO DO. There are things that you'd like to do, things that you should probably do, and things that you absolutely must do.

But what to do first?

Always do the hardest thing first. Always do the thing that you'd rather leave to last.

There are at least three good reasons for behaving this way:

1. You'll get the icky thing done sooner. That 'looming' feeling will go away.

2. You'll feel good and effective. It takes a strong-willed person, after all, to fill out those ten pages of paperwork before doing some interesting but tangential reading that may or may not be about Doctor Who . . .

3. You'll have used your will-power, limited resource that it is, in the most effective way possible. When your will-power resources were at their peak, you used as much as you needed to get through what you needed to do. You have less left now, but that's okay. You need less for tasks that are more enjoyable.

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That's what I did this morning. I did the hardest thing first. Which, by the way, was not writing this blog. I rather enjoy blogging, in fact. So, now I'm done my list of things-to-do (as much as one ever can be). Time for the crossword.

For more from yours truly, visit me at My Bad Habits. I am also on Twitter.

Ian Newby-Clark is a psychologist at the University of Guelph who gives research-based advice for lasting habit change.

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