Last Things First: One Quick Tip That Can Totally Transform Your Productivity (and Your Mood)


You know that feeling?

The feeling of having a task hanging over you all day? That one to-do that you keep bumping into in your brain—until you do it?

Maybe it’s that tricky email that you need to write…that phone call you’re nervous about making…that pesky errand you don’t want to run.

Now—approximately how many times throughout the day do you imagine doing that task, think, “Ugh!” and move on to something else…only to have it pop up again in your mind?

Every time you mentally bump into that task, you spend the energy of non-doing.

That one uncompleted task takes up a special kind of effort and attention—what I call the energy of non-completion.

Because you’re resisting it, but know it awaits you, the task jumps obnoxiously up and down in your mind whining, “Remember meeeee? You have to do me! I’m really going to suck!”


For me, that task is often going to the gym. Now, going to the gym is something that I find personally beneficial in approximately 87 million ways (and counting). And I really do feel better–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually–when I go.

Yet I often put off going until the last possible time I can squeeze into my schedule, which means I’m often rushed (and sometimes tired from the day) by the time I get there. Sometimes I even put it off until there’s no longer time to go before the gym closes, and then I miss the workout and all its benefits—and take an “integrity hit” because I haven’t done what I told myself I’d do.

Whether I end up making it or not, I’ve spent a significant amount of energy of non-completion throughout the day—energy that I could have dedicated to another, higher, purpose.

By contrast, when I manage to make myself work out early in the day, I feel amazing and experience a number of wins beyond the strictly exercise-related benefits.

One, I start my day with a feeling of accomplishment right off the bat (not to mention the physical rush that comes from working out).

Two, I build my discipline muscle and personal integrity: I believe that I can do what I say I will do. I feel like a rock star. If I can do the thing I least want to do, then I can do anything else I set my mind to that day!

Three, I get to reassign the energy that would otherwise be spent thinking about going, resisting going, calculating and recalculating when I’ll go, rationalizing why I don’t really actually need to go today and it’s better if I go tomorrow—I get to use all that energy to do other things, for work or leisure.

There’s no energy of non-completion. I’ve removed the Ugh Factor–cut it right off at the source.

Here is your mission, should you choose to accept:

For the next week, after you go through your morning routine each day, but before you do anything else, ask yourself:

Of the things I’d like to accomplish today, which task am I most dreading or most likely to put off? Which is likely to demand the most energy of non-completion?

Whatever the answer is, do that first.

This may take some practice tuning into your awareness, but if you make a habit of asking yourself what you’re resisting most, you’ll probably get pretty good at identifying the task. (Alternatively, you may decide to identify your “last thing first” the night before.)

Try the “last things first” strategy for one week, and you’ll notice a huge difference in your day’s Ugh Factor. When you do, come back and tell us! What task do you usually put off, and how do you feel after doing it first thing in the day?

Do you know someone who is trying to tackle a dreaded or nagging task? Send your friend this article and save him or her all that energy!

6 thoughts on “Last Things First: One Quick Tip That Can Totally Transform Your Productivity (and Your Mood)”

  1. Brilliant comment from your mom! I’ve heard similar sentiments put in different ways, but this is likely to stick with me. Thank you, Carrie Spaulding!

    1. Thanks, Fred! I wonder if your reference to my mom’s comment is about last week’s post (Taste What IS There). Either way, thanks for commenting, and I’m so glad you found this helpful!

  2. Here’s a piece of advice tailor-made for list-makers like me. Instead of crossing off all the easy little things first (in order to feel good about shortening my list), I’ll focus on getting the Ugh done–and then be able to coast through the other items on a Red Ryder of satisfaction.

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