Tackle the Tough Things First

Accountability Personal leadership Productivity


Key Point: Tackle the tough problems first thing in the morning and you will build a habit of being more self accountable.

I was the worst procrastinator for avoiding the tougher issues until I absolutely had to. After working for a couple of superb leaders who showed me the benefit of taking on difficult problems immediately, I became much more effective, and less stressed out because of it. Like many things, the gnarly problems were often worse in my mind than in reality.

Throughout the day, we exercise our self-control and make decisions, which slowly depletes our willpower. There is an advantage in tackling our most important tasks as soon as we can, and especially in the morning, when our energy level is high and our ability to exercise willpower is at its best. In keeping with this theme experts suggest that when taking a test, do the hardest problems first, and save the easy ones for later. They also suggest we forget that notion about not going to bed angry with your partner —nighttime is the worst time for arguments, when our willpower is low and our capacity for self control is weakened. And as a man who has been married for 40 years, I can strongly attest to this as being right on! It is absolutely amazing what a good night’s sleep will do—problems that felt all-consuming the night before will seem much less important when you get out of bed and have a good breakfast. My wife and I have always found a way to get things going in the right direction in the morning. If I try and force a discussion late at night I usually make things worse.

Character Move:

  1. Commit to taking on the gnarliest problems first thing in the morning.
  2. Have a thoughtful plan but do it earlier rather than later. Don’t let email and the easy, less valuable stuff distract you.
  3. Make the tough things first a habit, and part of your personal management system.

Tough things first in The Triangle,