You’ll often get productivity advice telling you to get your most challenging or most unpleasant task done first; Crape Diem. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this advice or crashed and burned with it. And so today I thought that I would share three ways to organise your schedule and why each of them works.
The Eat the Frog
This is the method that I mentioned above. “Eating the frog” or getting the most unpleasant task of the way first is an extremely popular piece of advice in the productivity community-and though I hate it, I can see why it works.
By completing the hardest/most unpleasant task first you know that it’s done and it won’t be hanging over your head. It also means that the rest of your tasks will be easier and so you’ll still have the energy and motivation to complete them.
The reason I find that this does not work for me is simple: it’s the most unpleasant and I don’t have the motivation to start it causing a lot of my time to get wasted by procrastinating anything being completed at all, or me producing a poor standard, demotivating piece of work. This means that not only have I wasted time producing what I know is subpar work that I’m not proud of and therefore feeling unmotivated and taking a three-and-a-half-hour internet rabbit hole break…or just achieving absolutely zero the whole day.
So this method definitely works wonders for some people but for others, like my dopamine-defienct self, it’s just demotivating.
Plan by Deadlines
An alternate way to structure your schedule is by planning to knock out tasks based on the deadlines assigned to them, whether the actual deadline or your extra early deadline.
This is helpful because it reduced deadline stress and prevents assignments, work or personal projects from being late or forgotten-something that results in a loss of momentum and motivation.
Another reason this method is helpful is that it removes a lot of the executive function that may be necessary for scheduling by allowing you to largely* plan your schedule around pre-assigned dates; one of the reasons this method may be especially helpful for neurodivergent peoples.
*Note: while this method is a sure-fire way to easily prioritise and schedule your tasks you will on occasion have to consider your priorities by more than just the deadline, for example, if you have an essay and a big homework assignment due the same week you’re going to have to prioritise the essay even if the homework is due a day or two earlier.
Work Your Way Up-The Easiest Task First
Right off the bat, this advice may seem counterproductive because you’re doing neither the most urgent nor the most difficult task done, it might even feel like you’re procrastinating because of this.
But no, I swear by this. When I wake up or get back from school I’m a big fan of knocking off one or two very basic tasks before I get to the tough stuff.
The reason for this is simple: by completing these easy tasks first not only do they get done but it also gives you a feeling of accomplishment and helps build momentum to keep you going to and through the tasks that you may not want to do for whatever reason.
It’s pretty much the secret power-up you have in video games for real life to make you feel as though you’re going to solve global warming by lunch-or just smash your to-do list but let’s not get too nit-picky.
Don’t spend too much time on these kinds of tasks, it’s just meant to get your momentum up.