Tackle The Things You Dread First — Here's Why

Although most of generally abide by the notion you don't want to get your day off on the wrong foot, it turns out the wrong foot might actually be the right one. Erm, let me explain. According to psychology writer Eric Barker, the key to setting yourself up for a successful day is to do the worst thing on your to-do list first. And while a morning routine that involves facing dreaded tasks before your morning cup o' joe kicks in may seem like starting off on the wrong foot, there's actually some pretty compelling evidence that doing so will make you a more efficient human being. Who knew?

Besides Barker and other experts in the psychology and behavioral science field who identified the link between self-control and time of day, that is. They obviously knew. But for us mere mortals who've been whiling away our mornings until java hits the veins doing menial activities like organizing our inboxes, this news is a bit of a revelation. Personally, I try to structure my day so my brain doesn't have to do any any especially heavy lifting before noon — she (my brain, naturally) isn't a morning person. Then again, I've apparently been doing life all wrong. Here's why.

Willpower Is a Limited Resource

What I should be doing is turning my bright-and-early attention on the things I typically spend the first part of the day avoiding, says Barker. He cites leading expert on willpower, Roy Baumeister, to explain this assertion, who said, "The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight." Kinda makes sense, right?

Your Brain Is More Alert in the Morning

It may feel like your brain doesn't fully wake up until that third cup of coffee, but the truth is quite the contrary — your brain is most alert in the two to three hours after you wake, likely before you've had time to down copious amounts of French roast. Think of it as striking while the iron is hot because, as Harvard Medical professor Orfeu Buxton points out, the morning is "the most alert you'll be all day." So don't blow your two most productive hours of the day. That's my shtick.

The Tasks We Prioritize Are Impeding Us

In an effort to put off doing those things we dread, we tend to prioritize so-called mindless tasks like checking email. However, studies show that reading email is a stress trigger — people who spend less of their work day reading email are less stressed and, in turn, more productive. Stress is a major willpower slayer, which is problematic given that people routinely cite lack of willpower as the top reason for not following through. Womp, womp. Looks like tackling the things I hate most on my daily to-do list first just got added to my New Year's resolutions (alongside learning to fishtail braid and finally adding a picture to my Snapchat profile).

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