A principle we’ve tried to teach our kids, and something we’ve always poured into our employees, is to do hard things first. Work should come before play. Hard should come before easy.
But we don’t always want to do the hard things. We like to do the enjoyable things (especially David!) If something isn’t enjoyable, then we at least want it to be easy. We’d rather be in the comfort zone than the pain cave. Yet more is accomplished in the pain cave than the comfort zone!
What we’ve seen in our years of business ownership is that doing the hard things first is a big determiner of how successful you’ll be.
- Squats are hard. Leg extensions are easy. Guess which is more effective for strengthening your legs.
- Cold calling expired listings is hard. Holding an open house is easy. Guess which is more effective for making money as a real estate agent.
- Sweeping a floor is easy. Scrubbing a floor on your hands and knees is hard. You already know which is going to clean your floor more effectively.
Here are seven things to consider about doing hard things first:
1. You have more energy and focus early in the day. It’s easier to do challenging things earlier in the day. You’re more effective at 9:00 AM than you are at 3:00 PM. Attack the hard thing when you’re fresh. It’s only going to be more challenging later in the day.
2. Doing the hard thing first prevents you from running out of time to complete it. Since the hard thing is often the most important thing, you should spend enough time on it early to complete it well.
3. The rest of the day is more enjoyable. If you have something unpleasant hanging over your head all day, you just can’t enjoy the day as much. Get the hard thing off your plate, so you can enjoy the remainder of your day.
- “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain
4. It builds self-esteem and confidence. Everyone else avoids the hard things – so be the person that attacks them. You’ll feel great about yourself and know that you can do anything that needs to be done.
Your potential increases greatly when you can reliably get yourself to do unenjoyable tasks.
5. It can help your career. Once you’re known as the person that can do the hard things, you’ll be highly respected and considered reliable. Most people have excuses for not doing the hard thing.
6. Avoid thinking too much about it. It’s best to get started on your hard thing without spending too much time thinking about it. It’s like eating Twain’s frog. Just eat it. You don’t want to stare at it all day. The frog only becomes bigger and uglier over time.
7. Decide what your “frog” is for the day. If eating a frog is the worst thing you have to do for the day, do it first and then everything else will be easy from there! That’s a gross word picture, right?
Some tasks are just unpleasant. There are even unpleasant tasks which provide little value but must be done. So just get your unpleasant tasks done as soon as possible.
If the unpleasant task is high value, it deserves to be accomplished first. If the unpleasant task is low-value, just get it out of the way as soon as you can.
If you can reliably do the hard things first, you’ll find that you’re much more successful and happy over time, because more is accomplished in the pain cave than the comfort zone!