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This is the third post in my series about ways to motivate yourself. In the last post, I talked about how extended procrastination can make tasks seem incredibly intimidating, but how you can do something else first and use that momentum to get going on the more dreaded task afterward.
For some people, though, that approach doesn't fly. The dreaded task is usually dreaded for a reason, usually because it is high priority, and it makes more sense to put your energy into getting it done now. Spending your time on other, less important tasks is a waste of time because it ignores the elephant in the room. Some might even argue that the rush it gives you to get something else done gives you a false sense of accomplishment, because you're ignoring the thing that needs to be done the most.
I know that's a pretty harsh way of judging people who prefer to do something else first (ahem, like myself), but there's a pretty powerful motivational book out there that's about exactly this. It's called (affiliate link warning!!) Eat That Frog, and it's all about how to accomplish more by getting the most important things done first.
The theory behind it is that you spend so much time doing other things first when you're dreading something, that you actually end up wasting time and doing things that you maybe don't need to do, all in a misguided pretense at "productivity." So maybe that writer with writers block who's cleaning her house right now is spending time scrubbing baseboards with a toothbrush, something she wouldn't normally waste time on.
Unlikely, but you get the point.
The fix is, of course, to write a prioritized to-do list with all the biggest, most important, most dreaded things on top, and that's what you start with. By getting the scariest and most important thing done right at the start of your day, you start your day off by being the most productive you could be, and remove that drain on your motivation right from the beginning.
Personally, I've never been good at this approach. I think this is a perfect method for motivating morning people, people who are at their best at the beginning of their day, and that is definitely not me. I require some time to wake up, warm up, and clear the cobwebs from my brain before I can start to work productively.
There's an alternative that I think offers a good compromise between these two methods - doing something else first, and doing the scariest and most important thing first - and I'll talk about that in my next post.