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:
Do you schedule your workouts, and your day in such a manner?
Scott Young wrote a post on the benefits of a top-heavy week a few years ago. This means to put the difficult tasks at the beginning of the week and taper off toward the end.
I'd also like to add that establishing habits can help to push your willpower further. So, for example, if you can establish a morning routine where you exercise, write, and meditate, and ALL of these are established habits, you'll still have plenty of willpower to tackle much larger tasks for the day. Just my two cents.
Eat the frog as the first thing you do in the day.
Nothing is weirder and horrific to do than eating a frog once you get up. Things only get easier after the metaphorical frog!
Phaed commented on "Those Easy Days With Nothing Due…" - it was a good comment, so I thought it deserved its own post:
I had a similar day today to yours yesterday. I did still manage to get a few extraneous things done. But, as a distraction came up, I asked it are you more urgent than the other tasks on my list. Mostly, the answer was no. But a few times, the answer was yes.
Now, sometimes a short, unimportant task can be more urgent than a long, important task, because clearing yourself of it unburdens you, so is sometimes good to do immediately. But you will balance all of these things against the urgency of your top priority task.
This means, on a busy day, aka a day with many urgent important tasks, your “filler,” do it right now tasks have to be equally urgent and important. On a less busy day, not only are your main tasks less important, but the filter for which “filler” tasks you let in lowers as well.
Keeping in shape while traveling is difficult. Between the nights out, the constant beer drinking, and carb heavy meals the pounds quickly start to add up. However this is the general strategy I use to stay relatively fit while on the road. If you recall one of my 2013 goals is to become incredible fit.