Why I start with the easy stuff first

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Writing can be difficult work. But you can make it more palatable if you always start with the easy stuff first…

An arresting — and amusing — argument rages in the productivity community.

It’s all about how we should tackle our work — whether writing or anything else.

One side of the group argues we should always do our most difficult work first.

People in this camp believe that if we tackle the hard stuff first, we become more productive and higher achieving than those who start easy and work their way up. Completing easier tasks first is just procrastination, they say, and serves only to destroy productivity.

But the other group believes it makes way more sense for us to do our easier work first.

People on this side of the coin believe the phrase “the path of least resistance” exists because so many of us procrastinate on difficult tasks. And completing smaller, easier tasks allows us to at least get started and generates a helpful feeling of productivity.

I’ve written several posts on the value of eating frogs, so you might think I’d be a flag-waving member of the let’s-embrace-a-challenge group. But, when it comes to writing, I almost always vote for starting with something easy — with one important proviso. (More on the proviso in a moment.)

Why should you always start with something easy? Three reasons:

1-You won’t procrastinate

Many of my clients like to diagnose themselves as procrastinators. They often confess the analysis with something approaching shame and embarrassment. But here’s what I like to tell them.

No one procrastinates because they’re lazy. We procrastinate for one of two reasons: The job seems too big or overwhelming (think of having to write a book that’s 80,000 words or a dissertation that’s 100,000 words).

Or, doing the work makes us feel tired or uncomfortable or both (think of cleaning out the garage or doing your income taxes).

If you asked me to bang my head against a brick wall, guess what? I’d procrastinate on that because I’d know it would give me a headache and it might make my head bleed. And you wouldn’t think any less of me for procrastinating, would you? You might even consider me smart for avoiding a headache.

The trick to getting yourself to do something you want or need to do — but keep resisting — is to make the job easy and pleasant enough that you don’t want to procrastinate. And you can do this most easily by starting small.

2-You’ll build up a head of steam

The first step in any project is always the toughest. But when you start with easy steps, you trick your brain into wanting to start. “This is easy,” you tell yourself. “I can do it.”

And when you discover that you’re right, that you can do it, you’ll feel proud of yourself and a little accomplished too. And those positive feelings will carry you forward into the next day, like you’re on a surfboard, riding a wedge (a steep wave) into the shore.

3-What’s hard today may be easier tomorrow

For some reason, many of us imagine that tomorrow is going to look exactly like today. But guess what? It never does.

The weather is different.

The people are different.

The situations are different.

Our own feelings are different.

In fact, what seems hard to you today may be easy tomorrow. Or at least you may be stronger tomorrow and better able to tackle the harder job.

The big benefits of starting easy

Right now, perhaps you’re afraid to write. You might worry you don’t have the talent or the determination or the stamina. You might dread what other people are going to say when they read your work.

You’re already carrying some pretty big burdens. There’s no need to make the situation even worse by taking on the hardest job first. Just get started by doing something easy.

Now, here’s that proviso I was talking about:

Always do your important work first

For me and for most writers, the important work is writing. It’s sometimes unpleasant, sometimes tedious and infinitely postpone-able.

So, it’s important to understand I’m not saying don’t do your writing if it doesn’t seem easy enough.

I’m saying commit to doing your writing and then do whatever it takes to make the job seem easier.

For example:

  • Write for a super short amount of time — just one to five minutes.
  • Write the section of the post/paper/report that seems the easiest and the most fun for you, first. (Writing is like making movies. You don’t need to do it in chronological order. You can fix everything with the editing, later.)
  • Don’t worry about any aspect of spelling, grammar, word choice or accuracy while writing. That’s all editing work you can do later.

What’s the easiest bit of writing you could do today?


My video podcast last week addressed how to take notes when reading. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Do you start with the easy stuff or do you prefer to begin with a more challenging task? We can all learn from each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by March 31/24 I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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