Time Savings 101 – Prioritizing the To-Do List

FormDr to do list

Do you find yourself wishing you could squeeze just a few more hours into your work day? You are not alone. People are juggling more work tasks, hobbies, and family commitments than ever before, and productivity expectations for work are always high. Whether your to-do list is contained on a written calendar, jotted down on the back of an envelope, or you use one of the many available apps, taking a hard look at how you organize your day can make a difference.

Time Saving Tip of the Month – Tackle Hard Tasks First

Have you ever found yourself putting off a particularly hard task that you dread?  Noticed yourself moving it forward from day to day, never seeming to actually gain traction on completing it? This is a productivity-busting, stress-inducing practice that keeps that dreaded task looming over your head for a longer period of time.

It is human nature for people to favor easier, more comfortable work over something that they are unsure about, feel unqualified for, or that makes them uncomfortable. Research published in Business Insider reveals the benefits of consciously tackling that difficult task first.

Researchers studied groups of emergency room physicians and how they selected patients from the queue, and the patients’ acuity levels. The higher the physician’s workload, the more likely he/she became to select low acuity patients. Over time, this provided a sense of efficiency and high productivity, but in reality, the physicians who selected more difficult tasks learned more and advanced in their careers faster.

These principles can be applied to other work situations as well. Workers tend to chase a “completion high” or sense of accomplishment when a task can be checked off the list. This leads people to select easy tasks first. To combat this habit, the article suggests breaking harder tasks into specific milestones that can provide that same sense of completion as each step is finished.

Eat That Frog

Brian Tracy, in his popular book Eat That Frog, puts forth much the same theory. The saying is based on a quote by Mark Twain –

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

The book encourages people to increase their productivity by tackling the difficult tasks quickly, because the longer it stays on your plate the more difficult it becomes. For people who have a habit of dreading things, “eating the frog” gives them the rest of the day to relax, feel good about their accomplishment, and focus on easier tasks.

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