When I was a little kid, I used to hate eating vegetables. I would sit at the dinner table, frustratingly complaining about how I didn’t want to eat my vegetables. Fortunately, my parents forced me to eat my veggies — even though I didn’t like them for it at the time.
I knew there was no way of getting out of eating my vegetables.
So, even though I was just a little kid, I realised I had to come up with a plan for actually enjoying my dinner instead of going through the struggle every single day.
I decided that I would eat my veggies first thing during dinner. I would just grind through it as fast as possible without really thinking about it. Only after eating all of my veggies would I move on to the more delicious things such as meat or fish.
I found this ‘strategy’ to be super effective. By eating my veggies first, I got the most challenging (yet most important) part of the meal over with and I could actually enjoy the rest of my meal without being frustrated or grumpy.
Nowadays, I use this same exact strategy that I developed as a 7-year old kid in my work in order to become highly productive — and you can use it too. All you need to do is eat your productivity ‘veggies’ first thing in the workday. Let me explain…
What Are Your Productivity ‘Veggies’?
Your productivity ‘veggies’ are the most valuable tasks that, if completed, lead to the fastest and most meaningful progress towards the achievement of your goals — just like vegetables are the most nutrition-rich foods and contribute significantly to your health and energy.
These tasks are often the most intimidating and most challenging tasks. We don’t necessarily look forward to doing them because we know it’ll be out of our comfort zone and energy consuming. That’s why we often put them off until ‘tomorrow’, mistakenly thinking that we’ll be ready for it then.
If you were like me as a kid, this sounds similar to eating your veggies. You didn’t really look forward to eating it. You’d much rather eat the more delicious foods — just like we much rather work on easier and less intimidating tasks because they are familiar and within our comfort zone. Completing these tasks makes us feel good, but they aren’t necessarily the most ‘nutritional’.
However, making it a priority to eat our ‘productivity veggies’ (aka, the most important tasks) early in the day is a highly effective strategy to become much more productive. I’ll explain why right now…
More Mental Resources Available
Your most important tasks require the most of you, so you need to be in optimal state in order to complete them both fast and of high quality. Unlike lesser important tasks, your most important tasks require you to be highly focused, disciplined and creative. Also, you often need to think deeply and solve difficult problems.
All in all, you need to tap heavily into your mental resources, which requires a lot of energy. However, these valuable mental resources are limited. They deplete throughout the day as you engage in other tasks (or distractions).
The more your brain needs to process before working on your important tasks, the less energy there’s left for it. Thus, the longer you postpone working on your most important tasks, the harder it’ll be to focus, be disciplined or think clearly — simply because your brain doesn’t have sufficient energy left. It has already been spent on your lesser important tasks (or even worse, on distractions).
When you lack these mental resources, the alternative is usually to procrastinate and push your important work off until ‘tomorrow’.
You can compare this to the strength of your muscles at the end of a workout. It’s impossible to do the heavy lifting at the end of your workout, simply because your muscles are much weaker and energy depleted. That’s why it makes sense to do heavy exercises like squats, deadlifts and benchpresses early on in your workout session when you still have the strength and energy.
We need to do exactly the same with our work. We need to do the ‘heavy lifting’ when our mental ‘muscles’ are still at it’s strongest. This way, not only do we get our important work done much faster compared to later in the day, but we also make fewer mistakes and produce higher quality work — all because we can think clearer, focus better and be more creative.
You Become Incredibly Consistent
We often tend to procrastinate on our most important work by working on lesser important tasks first. These tasks are almost always easier and faster to complete than our most important tasks. Completing these type of tasks actually makes us feel good and productive. In reality, however, we aren’t creating that much value at all. We aren’t being truly productive, despite thinking we are.
This is what I like to call ‘productive procrastination’.
Yes, you are moving and taking action, but by failing to give your most important work the time, energy and attention it requires, you’re still procrastinating. You’re sabotaging your own productivity.
Often, we get so lost in productive procrastination on a daily basis that we postpone our most important tasks to ‘tomorrow’. By spending our limited resources (time, energy and attention) on lesser important things, we end up not having enough time, energy, focus or willpower to sit down and complete the important stuff at the end of the day.
Thus, we decide to give it another try the next day. Unfortunately, more often than not do we repeat this cycle the next day as well. I’ve been stuck in this downward spiral many times myself.
Before you know it, you find yourself in this weird space where you’re being really busy and putting in a lot of effort, but you’re still not getting the results you desire. The perfect cocktail for getting confused, demotivated and stressed out.
However, by living according to the rule of ‘eating your veggies first’, there’s no need for all of this. You know that every single day will be a productive day simply because you know you will eat your veggies.
When you make it a commitment to work on your most important tasks first thing in the day, you simply won’t procrastinate on it because the logistics don’t allow it. Instead of postponing the truly meaningful work to ‘tomorrow’, you actually get it done on a daily basis.
And, if you consistently get a few big and important things done instead of completing many small and insignificant tasks, you actually make big and fast progress towards your goals on a daily basis. This consistency is what most people lack — and that’s why most have a hard time actually getting the results they desire.
Personally, ever since implementing this rule into my own life, I’ve finally been able to get the meaningful results that I desired for years. That’s because I no longer let myself fall prey to productive procrastination as I’ve made it a must to work on my most important tasks before working on lesser important tasks such as checking email, answering social media comments or improving my website. In other words, the lesser important things don’t get in the way of the most important things anymore.
Now Do It
I highly recommend you to make a habit out of eating your ‘productivity veggies’ first thing in the day if you want to make use of the fact that your mental resources are still abundantly available early in the day — and if you want to consistently get your most important work done without procrastinating on it.
Furthermore, the rest of the day feels like a breeze when you know you’ve already completed the most significant and most challenging work of the day — just like the rest of my meal used to feel like a breeze when I finished eating my veggies.
As an action point, I invite you to apply this principle in your very next workday — and feel free to share your experiences!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab