Plan for Productivity: Do Your Most Important Task First
Awhile back, I wrote an article about things to do every day at work to be your most productive. One important component is to start the day by doing your most important task, or MIT. The idea is to identify the task you most want or need to do and to do it first thing in the morning, because if you put it off, it’ll get forgotten or buried under other tasks. If you do it first, you’ll be able to focus on your other priorities.
This approach is the basis of the book Eat That Frog! The title refers to the idea that if you know you have to eat a live frog today, you should do it first thing. You’ll then be able to go through the rest of the day satisfied that you’ve already dealt with the most daunting thing you’re going to face. Other things will seem easier by comparison, and the time you would have spent procrastinating to avoid eating the dreaded frog is now available for other tasks.
Credit for this concept, by the way, goes to Mark Twain, who said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Or at least he said something like that, because he’s also quoted as having said, “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.” Whatever. You get the idea.
Some people equate "most important task" with "worst task," but if you don’t, that’s fine—you can apply the idea in whatever way works best for you. And you can create your own rules, such as identifying that frog-like task the night before and committing to work on it the next day until it’s done. And if you absolutely, positively have to check your email before facing your MIT, no problem. Simply create your own modified most important task—for example, by reviewing your email first thing and responding to anything urgent, then turning off email notifications and devoting yourself to your MIT.
Of course, it strikes me that in countries where frogs (or at least frog legs) are a delicacy, a different dining metaphor may be more appropriate. Snakes, maybe? Caterpillars? Cockroaches? Pick the off-putting critter metaphor of your choice and face it first thing in the morning. The rest of the day will be yours to enjoy.