My Favorite Productivity Tip

by Henrik Edberg

My Favorite Productivity Tip
Image by James Jordan (license).

I don’t know what the best tip is to increase your productivity but here’s a personal favorite of mine. It’s my favorite not just because it helps me to get more things done but also because it’s very simple, a great way to brighten your mood and to build an awesome day.

Plus, you can apply the same tip in other areas of your life too. And use it to build confidence in your own abilities, raise your self-esteem and face small or big fears.

What is it?

Start each day with doing the hardest/ most important/ most uncomfortable thing first.

That’s it.

Maybe you have an important call to make that you also fear might be uncomfortable. Maybe you know you have gotten behind on answering your emails and have big pile to dig into. Maybe you have the last five pages of your paper to finish. It’s often something that is hard to do and also kinda unpleasant.

Whatever it may be, get it out of your way the first thing you do. If you don’t then you may build it up more and more in your head and a call that you may be reluctant to do now grows into this big nightmare in your mind where your boss yells at you and everything is just terrible.

If you let it go so far then it’s also easy to wind up in place where you just put off for tomorrow. And the next day. And so on. As you walk around with vague negative feelings hanging like a gloomy raincloud over your head.

On the other hand, if you start your day by doing it you will feel relieved. You feel relaxed and good about yourself. And the rest of the day – and your to-do list – tends to feel a lot lighter and easier to move through. It’s amazing what difference this one action makes.

You can use this “get a good start to your day” tip a bit similarly in other areas of your life too. Besides using it to increase your productivity you can also use it to:

  • Improve your social mood. If you start your day by feeling social then you’ll feel like being consistent with that for the rest of the day. If you start out by being closed off and feeling guarded then it becomes harder and harder to break out of that shell as your day progresses. You can get yourself off to a good start by for instance assuming rapport. This means that just before a meeting, you just think that you’ll be meeting a good friend. Then you’ll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind. This works surprisingly well even if you don’t feel that social in the morning.
  • Increase your energy levels. If you work out early in the day you’ll feel energized for the rest of the day. This can be crucial on days when you feel tired and zombielike.

What you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. In our minds we have a tendency to want to be consistent with what we have done before. Use that to your advantage. Access the best parts of yourself by starting your day in a better way.

Try this tip out for a week and see how much this simple little thing can improve your life right now.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Stumbleupon or vote for it on Digg. Thanks a lot! =)

Like what you've read? Then get email updates (it's free)

Join over 59,426 awesome subscribers who receive exclusive happiness and personal development tips every week!

Click here to get started!

Print Friendly


Glen Allsopp March 26, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I prefer this one:

Put all your tasks in order of priority, and start with the most important one first. Even if you don’t finish it today, there’s no way you could have been more productive with your time.

I like your thinking though Henrik!

Marc and Angel Hack Life March 27, 2009 at 1:12 am

In other words, learn to delay gratification. ;-)

Struggle a little now so you can enjoy a lot later on.

Henrik Edberg March 27, 2009 at 9:09 am

@ Glen: That’s an awesome tips, thanks for sharing!

@ Marc and Angel: Yup, that sounds about right. :)

Saidely March 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

Howdy .. :)

thank you Henrik can’t agree more , “What you do/think early in the day often sets the context for your day”.

on trial for a week.
Saidely M.

Gregory Matous March 27, 2009 at 4:58 pm

This is great, because it also helps combat procrastination.

Its important that this is the very *first* thing that you do. Some people start by checking their email, reading some sports, or chatting with a co-worker.

Ya gotta hit it the very first thing, telling yourself that you’ll check email only *after* making that call, or writing a first draft of the article.

Daniel Richard March 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

“Start each day with doing the hardest/ most important/ most uncomfortable thing first.”

It would be safe to say that stepping out of the house to get to the 9-5 work is “that hardest” thing of the day. :)

Positively Present March 27, 2009 at 7:16 pm

This is a great point and, after reading this, I realize that I actually do tackle the most difficult/annoying task first when I arrive at my office. It feels great to take of something immediately and it also is a huge relief to no longer have to worry about whatever that particular task is. I read another great suggestion that relates to this concept on another blog (I believe it was The Happiness Project): if something takes less than one minute, do it now. This seems simple enough, but I think a lot of people put off small, simple tasks. For example, making your bed takes less than a minute and it’s always nice to come home to a neatly made up bed. :)

Katie Brandt March 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Great tip! My 2 favorite time management questions, especially when I am feeling stuck are:

1. Is what I am doing now moving me closer to my goals?
2. Is this the best use of my time, right now?

If the answers are no, well then I need to rethink how I am spending my time.

Mark Foo | March 27, 2009 at 11:46 pm

This is a really tough one. I’ve tried but failed. So now I list the 3 most important tasks for the day and start with the one I feel most comfortable with or the one I enjoy most. That way, at least I won’t procrastinate and at least I will still get an important task accomplished even though it may not be the most important task.



Henrik Edberg March 28, 2009 at 11:17 am

@ Saidely: Cool, good luck! :)

@ Gregory: Very good point, thanks for adding that.

@ Daniel Richard: Yeah, that might be the case on some days perhaps. :)

@ Positively Present: Yes, that one minute tip is great one too, thank you for sharing that. And happy to hear that you are already doing the most difficult thing first thing in the morning.

@ Katie: Those two questions are very helpful too, thank you!

@ Mark: I agree, it’s not always easy to start with the hardest thing first, I fail quite a bit with this one too. Your method sounds good too, although personally when I have done it that way it has sometimes led to just having done two of the tasks while still putting off the most important task. Or just having had the day end before I got to it.

rigdha March 28, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Excellent tip Henrik!

I definitely agree with you plus its such an awesome feeling when you get the big thing done so even if you get distracted later on by other urgent tasks you still feel like you had an amazing day!

Mike King March 30, 2009 at 8:40 am

Hmmm… Sounds like the book, “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy to me. Actually, that the first couple lines are the same as the books. I can’t believe you didn’t mention it as it makes this tip so real with intense study and writing that only Brian Tracy can do. I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who likes this article!

Beth March 31, 2009 at 2:43 am

Great tip Henrik.

And because sometimes doing the hardest/ most important/ most uncomfortable thing first can be extremely challenging, I suggest this technique.

Get underneath what ever it is you want to do–to what’s important to you about doing it in the first place.

Is it important to you because it will increase your productivity… then dig deeper, is productivity important to because it will help you succeed… deeper still, is success important to you because you want to be free– the freedom to do what you want when you want.

Whatever it is for you, keep digging until you get to the root of what’s important to you.

If you can get to the underlying importance–the motivation to do hardest/ most important/ most uncomfortable thing first will come a lot easier.

Thanks for all the great work you’re doing Henrik.

With appreciation,

Yes, But Still... March 31, 2009 at 4:30 am

It’s my favorite productivity tip too. And it’s an easy one to ignore if you have a particularly hard task on the agenda.

In which case, structured procrastination takes over.

Henrik Edberg March 31, 2009 at 7:02 am

@ rigdha: Thanks! Glad to hear you have found this tip helpful too.

@ Mike: I actually learned this tip from an old boss back when I used to sell computers about 10 years ago. But I agree, Brian Tracy is great and Eat That Frog is too as I remember. Thanks for adding that recommendation!

Nadia - Happy Lotus March 31, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Hi Henrik,

I follow this philosophy too. I learned it when I was school. When I used to come home from school. I would get started on my homework right away so that I could enjoy the rest of the evening. I have found as an adult this method still works! Great tip! :)

Isobel Joaquin April 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I do apply the same strategy daily. Tackling the most dreaded task first thing really help boost my productivity the rest of the day.

The only thing is if that dreaded task can result to something that could ruin the day ultimately, in any case that rarely happens anyway. And if it does happen.. at least I have the whole day to rectify the problem.

cia1975 April 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm

What a nice blog! Interesting reading!

James @ Organize IT April 2, 2009 at 3:32 pm

This is a very useful tip, I wrote about it myself a while back, though in a less articulate fashion :) It’s all about setting the right tone for the day. I will often struggle straight out of bed to do the worst task on my to-do list. Don’t make a cup of tea or browse through your inbox!

Karen April 9, 2009 at 2:52 am

This is a great tip. Doing the hard task first gets it done while you are fresh and have more energy. Also, it allows you to enjoy the day more because you got an important task done. I talk about 5 productivity mistakes in this blog article

Project Junto April 9, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Great tip!

Tim Ferriss mentions something similar in the 4 hour work week when he recommends defining 2 simple tasks which must be done by 11am.

Once the hardest part of the day is over, the stress seems to fade away!


Niro Thambipillay April 10, 2009 at 2:33 am


Great tip! I love this one but I know there are times when the most unpleasant task for the day can be something that takes quite a while which can be daunting. In those situations, I take on something a little easier and quick to finish. Once I get that done (and I’m talking about doing something productive that will move me forwards towards my goals and not just wasting time on a trivial task), I start to feel better about myself, better about the day ahead and start to build some momentum which allows me to tackle some of my bigger tasks for the day.

Sometimes having this little “work-around” allows me to get moving when I’m feeling exceptionally lazy. After all the toughest part is often just to start and get moving.

Cheers, Niro

Linh P Pham April 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Great tip, Henrik.
It has become my fav productivity tip too.
Thank you.

mathemichi April 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Nice tip.

I am starting work at morning for a few years now but didn’t try to assign this to other areas of my life yet – I will now!

Thank you.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: