Hard Things First: Starting the day
Every morning after I wake up, the first I do is work on the hardest thing to be done that day. Fixing a persistent bug, reading a long-form article, and completing a difficult workout are a few examples of the challenging tasks, activities, and routines that are worthwhile to tackle bright and early. Sometimes, just getting out of bed is a great victory.
Ideally, the hard thing is time-sensitive, challenging, and do-able. It should sit in the Urgent & Important quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix, but doesn’t have to (e.g., take a cold shower). Something hard might simply be something that you’d rather do later, which often creeps into never (e.g., tidy your room). Finally, “do-able” means that it can definitively be accomplished, whether as a discrete task (e.g., write the difficult email) or a step on a longer journey (e.g., restring the guitar).
The key is not only to make progress on the things that must get done, but also to set yourself up for the rest of the day. Being “ready” never just happens— it is earned. By doing hard things first, you invest in a readiness that will yield big returns:
- Build short-term momentum for hard things today, and sustain long-term momentum for the hard things in a lifetime
- Avoid the crippling dread that comes with procrastinating, and erode the habit of procrastination itself
- Realize that some challenges that cast a big shadow are less threatening and easier than they appear
- For off-days, enjoy the rest of the day guiltlessly
This very post started as a single sentence I wrote on my tablet one morning in bed. Writing and publishing content is difficult and easy to put off. However, by doing the initial hard thing of getting started, I can now share with you this technique that I hope you will find useful.