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The Only Productivity Tip You'll Ever Need

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This productivity strategy is straightforward: Do the most important thing first each day.

Ernest Hemingway woke each morning and began writing straight away.

He described his daily routine by saying, “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

Hemingway’s routine — along with hundreds of other prolific authors, artists, and scientists mentioned in Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work — hints at the most productive strategy I have found for getting things done and making daily progress in the areas that are important to you.

Let’s talk about the only productivity strategy you’ll ever need, why it works, and what holds us back from using it consistently.

Productivity, Simplified

No need to draw this out. This productivity strategy is straightforward: Do the most important thing first each day.

Sounds simple. No one does it.

Just like Hemingway, who produced an remarkable volume of high-caliber work during his career, you can make surprising progress each day if you simply do the most important thing first.

Why It Works

We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.

Being productive is about maintaining a steady, average speed on a few things, not maximum speed on everything.

That’s why this strategy is effective. If you do the most important thing first each day, then you’ll always get something important done. I don’t know about you, but this is a big deal for me. There are many days when I waste hours crossing off the 4th, 5th, or 6th most important tasks on my to-do list and never get around to doing the most important thing.

As you’ll see below, there is no reason you have to apply this strategy in the morning, but I think starting your day with the most important task does offer some additional benefits over other times.

First, willpower tends to be higher earlier in the day. That means you’ll be able to provide your best energy and effort to your most important task.

Second, in my experience, the deeper I get into the day, the more likely it is that unexpected tasks will creep into my schedule and the less likely it is that I’ll spend my time as I had planned. Doing the most important thing first each day helps avoid that.

Finally, the human mind seems to dislike unfinished projects. They create an unresolved tension and internal stress. When we start something, we want to finish it. You are more likely to finish a task after starting it, so start the important tasks as soon as possible. (Just another reason why getting started is more important than succeeding.)

easy peasy!  i'll give it a try and report back next week!

okay, i am here to report:

1. what is important?

i can pretty much stop there.  because that became the big question.  it seems like everything is important!  how does spider-man choose whom to help?

i did a lot less interneting though, and did finish a children's book manuscript that has been lurking in the back of my mind for some time now, so that was a big accomplishment!

but there's no getting around eating, caring for the kids, brushing teeth, bathing, picking up the house, grocery shopping, etc.  the little things have to be done, too.

so it's still just a balancing act. but it is important to do the ONE big thing that's nagging your brain. if we did that ONE thing every day, we would be amazing superheroes in the making!!

and yes, do it FIRST.

I like the question, "How does Spider-Man choose whom to help?"

The answer, of course, is that he chooses those closest to him first.

So what's most important? That which is closest to you.

And I agree that managing it all is a juggling act. 

You do the most important thing first, then everything else fills up the day.

Congrats on finishing your manuscript!

you're totally right: he chooses those closest to him first.

so that is the ticket: do the most important, closest thing first. like spider-man, or a bull dozer!!

When you put it that way, it seems like it should be straightforward to do.

Now all we need to do is actually do it.

*sigh*  the actual doing it!!  it's so much easier not to...  :)

That's true, but then we make less progress.

even spider-man wondered if he was up for it.  there was a point when he just wanted to opt out!

He wanted out at several points, if I recall correctly.

i guess being a superhero is hard.  even for superheroes!

It is. No one realizes the pressure a superhero is under.

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