From Worst To First

When my daughter was young, my wife insisted that she eat at least three bites of everything that she was served for dinner. She did this partially out of principle, but largely to ensure that she was getting a balanced diet. I particularly remember one night when she finally ate three spoonfuls of by then cold peas, long after the rest of us had left the table.
As I tucked her into bed later that evening, she of course had to tell me how awful cold peas were. In fact, she could still taste them. I suggested that tomorrow night she try eating the least desirable dish first, get it out of the way, and then leave the table with a good taste in her mouth. She tried this method and a new habit was formed. A couple of weeks later she even commented that peas weren’t “as bad as I thought they would be” when they were warm!
Why do I share the eating habits of a five year old? Because I feel many of us are still behaving in a similar manner today when we process our daily to-do list. There is always one phone call or action to be taken that is less desirable to us. Not looking forward to what we fear will be an unpleasant task, we tend to do the easier and less important duties first. The problem is that every time we scratch a completed task off the list, there is that dreaded one staring back at us. The longer we put it off, the worse it seems to become in our minds. It is beginning to appear distasteful – kind of like eating cold peas!
I have found it to be a good practice to do the least desirable task on my list the first thing each day. By doing so I don’t have to deal with its unpleasantness for long. Then I proceed to the remaining least desirable task, etc. Before the first coffee break, the worst is now over and mentally I can feel my day improving.
Try attacking your to-do list from worst to first. You might find that doing so leaves you with a good taste in your mouth!

Tom Jennings

Saturday, October 1, 2011