Research indicate that human beings are better able to handle challenges earlier in the day rather than later. Peak energy and alertness for most people is at 8 a.m. Also, fewer interruptions are likely earlier in the day.

This is not to say you can’t be effective handling large tasks later in the day, and as every association executive knows, often, you have no choice but to do so. The long-term odds of success, however, are with you when you make a note of handling the day’s biggest challenge as early as you can, perhaps as the very first thing.

When composing a to-do list, regardless of what order you list the items, when you identify the vital challenge you face for the day, circle it, or draw an arrow from it up to the top of the page, indicating that this is the task you will tackle first. Then, clear away any minor hurdles that would impede your ability to start on this project.

Re-arrange your workspace

Do you need to rearrange your workspace accordingly? Okay, go ahead and do so; not to stall, but because you will literally be making logistical changes to your workspace that aid in the way you perform best. Do you need to alert others that you do not wish to be distracted? Okay, go ahead and do so, because clear stretches give you your best chance of being productive, especially when you are tackling a project that is new, requires highly creative thinking, or is unfamiliar to you.

Each distraction, however fleeting, may turn into a full-fledged interruption. Interruptions in and of themselves are not so bad, on average lasting only three minutes. The problem, however, is that a typical interruption leads to other activities that can last 12 to 14 minutes. Therefore, any interruption could pull you from the task for up to 16 minutes.

You’re more prone to be distracted as the day goes on versus early in the morning. So, you have a compelling reason to tackle the biggest and worst of the tasks before you as early as you can get to them. Thereafter, no matter how difficult the challenge was, as you’ve experienced so many times before, once you finish something that at first may have seemed intimidating, the whole day tends to go better.

Make it a great day

Early, major victories have a way of affecting the rest of the day. Freed from psychological baggage of handling the task, as well as the mental and physical effort necessary to do so, you then almost automatically consider, “what other great things can I accomplish today?”

Jeff Davidson
“The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues. He works with organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the work-life balance of their people. He wrote Breathing Space, Simpler Living, and Dial it Down, Live it Up.