When it comes to lifting weights, a key principle is performing the most demanding exercises at the beginning of the workout. Each successive movement should be less taxing on your body and your Central Nervous System. For example if your workout includes squats, incline barbell bench press, seated cable rows, and curls - they should be performed in that order. You need more strength and concentration to perform squats than incline press, incline press than cable rows, and so on.
An interesting parallel exists between this concept and the willpower needed to complete day to day, non exercise tasks, be it personal or work related. The same basic principle applies. Whichever task you have for the day that requires the most concentration and focus to complete should be done first. The reason is that once you have completed said task, you will have less willpower remaining. You won’t have enough left in the tank to do the hard task at the end of the day.
Look at it this way. Squats are a bitch. And if you choose to start your workout with the cable rows instead, they ain’t getting any easier. Then maybe you feel like doing the incline bench press next, you know, put off those squats a bit longer. Before you know it you have done the curls too, and now you physically do not have enough energy (neither mentally nor physically) left to perform the squats safely at a reasonable weight.
This is why you discipline yourself to do the squats first thing. Beast them out, and get them out of the way. They are the most important, and also the most taxing.
The same thing happens in life. Sure, you can put off the tough project in favor of doing some mindless, but easy tasks, or worse - procrastinating. But it’s only going to get harder to tackle as the days goes on, and your energy/willpower drains with it. The one exception that I can think of is priority-based. That is, you might have an easy task due today and a hard one due next week. In this case it makes sense to prioritize based on more than just difficulty. But, assuming the items are on a relatively even level, importance/due-date wise, then always hit the tough one first.
A Couple Willpower Boosters
The one good thing about non-physical tasks is that there are a couple ways to fill up the tank midday. My three favorite are:
- Exercise. Is your brain fried? Go lift some weights or go for a run. Chances are your mind will feel refreshed after.
- Mediation. 10-20 minutes of meditation clears my mind when it gets too cloudy to think straight. I know some people love a morning meditation, but for me, its value lies later in the day when I’m struggling.
- Caffeine. This works too.
Do you schedule your workouts, and your day in such a manner?