Do You Do Easy Or Difficult Tasks First?

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle to get motivated.  There are certain days when getting going just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.  For someone like me, this can be a big problem.  I tend to be a lot more productive in the morning than during any other part of the day.  I started looking at ways I could get more motivated on days when my energy is low.  One of the things I thought of was how to prioritize tasks.  Specifically, does it help to do easy or difficult tasks first?

easy or difficult tasks first
Do you prioritize your easy or difficult tasks first?

Making My List Of Things To Do

One of the first things I do at work any day of the week is create a checklist of things to do.  Never do I get everything done.  But that’s OK.  There are a certain number of things that are standing items.  Those stay on the list and include things that I want to do every day.  These include:

  • Cleaning out my e-mail.
  • Organizing my desk.
  • Tracking my project time sheets.

Then, I have a list of things that I need to do specific to that day.  Finally, there are certain things that I do once per week.

The question is where to start.  Do I start with the easy or difficult tasks first?

The Case For Doing Easy Tasks First

When I start off with my easy tasks, the biggest benefit is the high number of completions I start off with.    When I start with my easy tasks, I can usually blow throw a few of these quickly.  Having a big number of checked off items in my first hour gives me a sense of accomplishment.

This can also help get my energy level going.  If I set a goal to get my highest number of tasks per day done in the first hour, it forces me to get moving.  This can help get me energized and focuses.

The Case For Doing Hard Tasks First

On the flip side, some days I start off with my difficult tasks first.  Some people have actually said that more successful people employ this philosophy.  While this may be the case, who really knows for sure how accurate these studies are?

The biggest benefit for doing hard tasks first is that they’re out of the way.  Many hard tasks are daunting and time consuming.  To get those done first lets you remove the associated stress that often comes with difficult or complicated tasks.

One of the other benefits is can help you avoid procrastinating.  Let’s face it, a hard task is easy to push aside.  This is especially true if there’s not an immediate deadline.  But, if you force yourself to do the task, then it’s done!  No more worrying about it or letting it pile up.

My Preference

I prefer to start my day with an hour or two of easier tasks.  Then, I try to tackle my hard tasks.  This is a good mix for me.  It lets me get some ‘wins’ by getting a few accomplishments done early. I also get to work on some repetitive tasks before the first cup of coffee kicks in.  But, it also lets me tackle the hard tasks in the morning when I am the most productive.

This strategy seems to work for me most days.  I won’t lie. There are still days when it’s just difficult to get going.  I guess when that happens, you just do the best you can do.  Try to push through it and get as much done as you can.

Otherwise, there’s always tomorrow.

Readers, do you prefer doing your easy or difficult tasks first?  Have you tried different methods?  What are the advantages or disadvantages that I might not have pointed out?  Thanks for reading.


7 thoughts on “Do You Do Easy Or Difficult Tasks First?”

  1. I try to only do two or three chores/errands a day. I have a mix of easy and hard, so I tackle the easy one(s) first to get some steam built up, then I go for the hard one. Though once in a while, I do the hard one first just to get it over with. So I guess it just depends. But more often than not, I start with the easy one(s). I find it more motivating.

  2. Usually, I try to do the super easy tasks first. Get a quick win, then move on to the most difficult task of the day. If I put the difficult task off any longer than that, it won’t get done.

  3. I love this question! I’m a lot like you. I don’t think of it as procrastinating, but I get easier tasks out of the way to garner some gusto. Also, I know I will get everything done (and force myself to get everything done) if I do the less important tasks first and force myself to do them well, but then still go on to do the larger tasks that MUST be done well (if that makes sense). It guarantees I get everything done and done well.

    For example, I’ll comment on other people’s blogs as a warm-up. My comment matters to some extent, it gets me going, and I know the “must-do” part is my own writing I will get to eventually. Even if I’m mildly procrastinating it, I’m going to force myself to do it well once I get to it. Just a thought!

    • That’s a good idea. I like the ‘warm up’ analogy. It really is a perfect fit.

      One of the things I’ve started doing is finding tasks that I want to do, either because they’re appealing or easy or because it’s a big item to check off. I’ll restrict myself from working on it until I complete a task that I would otherwise normally put off.

      It’s actually been pretty helpful in trudging through some tasks that I might have otherwise procrastinated on.

  4. I like to start on something lightweight and regard it as a sort of five-finger exercise. If I write a blog post before launching into some mathematician’s monstrously complicated research report, then I can imagine I’ve done SOMETHING (even though the likelihood that I’ll finish the math paper today is about nil). It’s good for morale.

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