Everyone likes to get a quick win. It would seem that disposing of small items would generate momentum to tackle larger work. However, does this tactic lead to lower productivity?
In an article on getpocket called Why Doing the Easy Parts of Your To-Do List First Can Be a Bad Idea, Stephanie Vozza argues that studies show that tackling the low hanging fruit first may dissuade you from attempting more meaningful work.
“In the short-term, the person could actually feel satisfied and less anxious,” says Maryam Kouchaki, associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “But avoiding hard tasks indefinitely also cuts off opportunities to learn and improve one’s skills.“
Part of the problem with working on easy tasks is that they are often low value and procedural, making little impact on a person or organization’s larger goals.
Finishing tasks provides a sense of progress and makes us feel good. “We all have limited time and attention,” says Kouchaki. “In any moment, if you have a choice of doing an easy or difficult task, most of us tend to pick the easy task. Easier tasks are often quicker to complete, and they are more likely to be chosen first when people are busier. We call this ‘task completion preference.’”
The problem is that when you create a habit of choosing easier tasks over hard, you can impact your long-term productivity.