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Do It First and Move On

man circling the first item on a listFrom Yoda to Nike, Mother Teresa to Martina McBride, people have expounded on the need to “do it anyway.”

Are you a procrastinator? Do you put off the biggest challenge? Do you delay the start of something that you could begin now? In Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog, he explains the importance at the start of the day to identify the most onerous task that must be accomplished, doing it and moving on. How liberating! Once done, I’m totally free to move forward in a positive way.

Having done that, I need to select the most important tasks that remain. By doing these first when I’m fresh and more resolved, I have a better chance of staying focused and on-task. As the day progresses, other “stuff” tends to creep onto my list and pull my attention in another direction.

This sounds so simple. So why don’t I approach every day in just this way? Could it be that I’m more interested in checking off as many things as possible on my to-do list than I am in accomplishing the mission-critical things that have a higher priority? Maybe I haven’t even bothered to prioritize the list. James Clear discusses this at length in Atomic Habits.

Being productive isn’t about getting the most things checked off the list. It’s about getting the most important things done. Don’t try to stampede through a long list of low-importance items. Focus on making steady progress in key goals with significant impact. Otherwise, if you’re like me at times, you may find at the end of the day that you’ve crossed off a whole bunch of things that didn’t matter much and still have “the biggie” needing your attention. I really like finishing what I start. I don’t enjoy the tension and stress of a halfway-done project.

Another area of concern is how much time I spend on someone else’s agenda. Have I learned to react to someone else’s priorities as if they were more important than my own? Sometimes they are, but often they are not. Of course, I do have responsibilities as a parent, child, friend, student, teacher, employee and citizen. Yet, I need time and space in my days to respond to my own agenda. Not to allow myself this time minimizes my self-worth. I may not always succeed; things may not turn out exactly as I hoped. However, I owe it to myself to give my best effort. If I never try, I’ll never know.

I Care, Barb

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