Why I Never Do My Most Important Task First

I know, I know. According to like every productivity blog ever, we’re supposed to do our Most Important Task (or MIT) first. Which sounds great-in theory

Problem 1: I Need to Get Into My Work Groove

I’m an early riser. I’m on a weird schedule where I sleep like 3-4 hours at night and then take a nap in the afternoon. It works for me. That’s not the point.

The point is that despite being an early riser, I’m not one of those people who wakes up raring to go and ready to work. I envy those people. I need some time to wake up, and get into the whole work mindset. And I don’t mean just shower-breakfast-coffee. I need something to trigger me to say “ok, Leslie ,it’s office hours now.”

Problem 2: Anxiety!

I know the whole point of doing your MIT first is that you’re not crippled with anxiety and all that, but honestly? By not spending the 5 minutes to at least SCAN for something important leaves me with a feeling of dread that something will go wrong and I’ll be caught off guard.
Problem 3: If I Don’t Do It Then, I Won’t Get It Done

Seriously, if I don’t check my email inbox like 3 times a day (morning, noon, night) and take care of everything, I’ll get overwhelmed by a full inbox and try to hide from it. And that doesn’t help-more email will just pile up and make the whole thing scarier. Plus, I’ll make people mad.

How I Make It Work for Me

I start every day by scanning my email inbox, checking my analytics reports, answering any blog comments, and going through my feed reader.

And yes, if you’re not careful this can easily turn into an all day affair, but I’ve figured out some ways around that.

Prep the Night Before – Clean Out the Inbox Before You Leave

I set a time everyday that I stop working. I might work on some personal, but work related projects after that, but it’s personal projects only. An hour before that time, I go through and clear out my inbox, respond to anything I need to (ok, I’ll be honest. Sometimes I get distracted and skip this part. But usually I do it.). I do any financial admin type work, such as invoicing and making sure my income and expenses are update to date in my accounting tool, check my calendar for tomorrow, and schedule anything else in the remaining time.

By doing this, when I check my email in the morning, the vast majority of it is done. It really is just anything urgent and maybe some people who are in an earlier time zone. Take care of that and I’m go to go.

Prep the Night Before-Schedule Your Day

By checking my calendar and planning my day the night before, I know EXACTLY what’s on my plate. It’s much harder to get lost in the sea of “reactionary” work when you KNOW you have shit to do. Without a guide, it’s easy to say “oh, I’ll just read a few more posts” or “oh, I’ll investigate these analytics a little farther.” With a plan, I still might say that, but I’ll stop myself because I’ll remember “oh yea, later.”
Set a Timer

Tying into that last point, if you set a timer, it gives you a much better handle on how long you’re spending on that type of stuff. It’s easy for time just to fly by when you’re going through your feed reader or Instapaper. Set a timer and stick to it. Cut yourself off, move on to an important task, and get back to it later.

How to Decide Which Technique Is Right for You

Personally, that’s what works best for me. But it might not work for you.

Ask yourself some questions, like “do I work best first thing in the morning?” and you’ll have a much better idea. Because really, no one can tell you what the best way for you to do work is. Except for you know, you. And your mother. That’s part of her job. Whether she’s right or not, it’s part of her job.

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