71: The order of a challenge


Tackle the easy things first, or tackle the biggest challenge first?

Show notes and links:
Why successful people do the hard tasks first (Business Insider)
Should you do your hardest or easiest homework first? (Reddit)

Full episode text

How you choose to “chunk” or break apart a task often has a big impact on how you – or IF you – complete the tasks at hand. This choice is one that behavioral scientists have studied extensively. The conclusion of many of those studies? That you should front-load the pain of a situation.

Be it doing the most difficult thing first, getting bad news first, or waiting in one place for 20 minutes instead of two places for 10 minutes each, the science says that getting the most difficult thing done first is probably your best bet.

But rarely is the human brain so simple or so clean. A big part of this decision, in fact, depends on your own reaction. Take paying down debt, for example. If you do the math, then you should always pay off the highest-interest debt first. It saves you money in the long term, because you pay less in interest.

Seems pretty basic, right?

Then why is it many financial advisors will suggest that you pay off at least one small debt, no matter what the interest rate is? Simple. The sense of accomplishment is powerful. That hit of happy chemicals can be enough to keep you going through a long slog of front-load paying. Really it depends on how you react to long term versus short term effort.