Get More Done and Stress Less

>> Friday

HERE'S A RULE we all know we ought to follow: Do the important things first. You and I know if we’re doing something of secondary importance while we still have something of primary importance to do, we’re essentially wasting our time — even if what we’re doing is constructive, productive, positive, loving, or any other worthwhile description. If it isn’t one of the few things that are important to us, then it’s a waste of time.

Of course that’s a rather extreme and absolute thing to say, and there are always mitigating circumstances and perfectly valid reasons why the rule can’t be followed all the time, but doing important things first is a rule few would argue with.

Important tasks are usually more difficult than unimportant tasks, so we tend to put them off. But listen: That’s because we’re thinking about what it will be like to do the task. And that’s where we go wrong. Don’t think about that. Think about what it will be like to have the task done. There’s a big difference — a difference that can make a difference. It takes your attention off the part you don’t like and puts your focus on something you really want: the result. That subtle difference will make the task more appealing, so you’ll be less likely to put it off.

Instead of looking at the bills to be paid and thinking about all the time and frustration and neck-hurting hassle, imagine the feeling you’ll get when you finish, when all the bills are stacked up there, paid, stamped and ready to mail. What a great feeling! Keep that image in mind when you look at the stack of bills. You’ll get to it sooner.

And when you get to something sooner, you suffer less because you spend less psychological effort avoiding the task. You get to spend more of your time on the other side — satisfied that the job is finished.

That’s it. It’s a simple change that makes things better. Vividly anticipate the completion of important tasks and you will get more of them done.

This is a chapter from Principles For Personal Growth.

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