Mom always said, to be successful, do the things you hate first—get them out of the way.
As a kid, I never listened to that advice. Why? Well, it came from my mom, and quite simply, I hated to do the things I hated to do. So clearly, I procrastinated for as long as humanly possible.
But, once again, Mom was right. So right, that millions of books have been written and sold about this very topic.
One such book is called "Eat That Frog!" In essence, the book says you should tackle the ‘tick mark’ items you dislike most first. So, if you dread expense reports, knock out your expense report first. After that, you’ll feel more relaxed and set up for success the rest of the day (or the following days). As the book explains, if you “eat that frog” in the morning, that’s clearly the worst thing you could do all day, right? From there, you’ll feel the momentum of progress that leads to more productivity for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, we procrastinate not because we don’t ‘like’ the task; rather, we do so because the task is too big. It’s an elephant. The mere thought of attempting to work on the task is so overwhelming, it’s paralyzing—and then we do nothing.
In this case, the ideal way to motivate is to focus on activities, not accomplishments.
It’s easy to not focus on the top 20 percent of your critical work as a direct result of fear—whatever your fear is. And we do that by focusing on the bottom 80 percent of the mundane, easy, check-writing, email-answering tasks that make us feel good because we accomplish them and get to cross them off a list.
It’s not serving you.
In the morning, focus on the most valuable tasks, which are probably the hardest and most complex. Do this by asking yourself every morning, "Is this task I’m about to tackle in the top 20 percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?" The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you will be naturally motivated to continue. A part of your mind loves to be busy working on significant tasks that can really make a difference. Your job is to feed this part of your mind continually, and once you’ve “eaten the frog," you’ll want more the next day. And then the next. Adamantly refuse to work on those bottom 80 percent tasks (until you must), and you’ll feel more motivated and see more progress on meaningful projects.