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Do Difficult Tasks First for Productivity #atozchallenge - Corinne O'Flynn

a-to-z HEADER [2015] - april

It’s day 4 of the challenge, and I’ve been visiting new blogs, taking in all the interesting things people are blogging about. Such diversity in the a-to-z blog world, it’s fabulous!

If you’re looking for the other participants, click the sunflower badge on the right. ;)

And now for today’s business:

D for Do the Difficult Tasks First

This is one of those pieces of advice that isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every situation. But if you find yourself with a project to tackle, and you’re unsure how to break it down, sometimes it’s best to address the most difficult tasks first.

Engineer Adam Sadowsky talks about this during his Ted talk where he shares the many things he learned while building a giant Rube Goldberg machine for the band, OK Go’s video for This Too Shall Pass.

Side note: If you’re unfamiliar with OK Go, they are famous for these elaborate and challenging videos that go with their catchy music. My favorites are here (shot in one take), here (the Rube Goldberg video, one take), here (treadmill dancing, one take), and here (trippy psychedelics, one take).

Back to the Difficult Tasks…

Anyway… in his Ted talk, Sadowsky explains how they were building this huge Rube Goldberg machine that had to perform many different and specific tasks, including taking over playing the music when they turned off the soundtrack at one point. So this thing has a lot of moving parts and had to hit a lot of the right beats. It’s awesome!

The engineering team quickly learned that putting the “sure things” at the end of the machine saved them time. Because if you have a bowling ball rolling down a track and smashing into a TV, it’s always going to hit. It was the smaller, more intricate parts of the contraption that required more testing to perfect.

By moving the larger items to the back of the machine, they didn’t waste any time when they tested the machine. Because the hard stuff was in the front, it always failed early. Thus saving them time (and televisions).

Our instinct is to put the hard stuff last.

We all procrastinate the hard stuff. But if you think about it, this can cause serious issues when you’re up against a deadline and you’ve waited until the last moment to do the hardest thing.


About the Author Corinne

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  1. Very true! Oh – I am such a procrastinator. I do the stuff I LIKE doing first and try and forget about the other stuff. I’ve been working hard on three books and the blogging and thoroughly enjoying myself but have ignored the housework completely. Then my son brought home a new, female friend… I saw it through her eyes and nearly died. It’s now been done. Took a morning! Wonder if she’ll be back?

  2. If something is hanging over me and making me feel guilty that I haven’t done it then everything else I do won’t be as good. I think that’s another reason to do the difficult tasks first. Of course it doesn’t mean I like it.

    Then there’s boring tasks, like the washing up. They’re not necessarily difficult but certainly tedious. It’s them I procrastinate the most. Interesting blog, got me to evaluate my own task list.

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