Understanding the Psychological Impacts of Completing Easier Tasks First

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Have you ever wondered why people tend to tackle easier tasks before more challenging ones? Well, it turns out that there are actually psychological impacts behind this common approach. By completing simpler tasks first, individuals often experience a sense of accomplishment and momentum, which can boost their motivation and productivity levels. In this article, we explore the fascinating world of task prioritization and delve into the psychological benefits of starting with the easy stuff. So, whether you're a master procrastinator or someone looking to optimize your daily productivity, understanding the effects of completing easier tasks first may just change the way you approach your to-do list.

The Effect of Task Difficulty on Motivation

When it comes to motivation, task difficulty plays a significant role. Understanding the psychological impacts of completing easier tasks first can provide valuable insights into how to effectively manage and boost motivation levels. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects related to task difficulty and its effects on motivation, productivity, cognitive load, task prioritization strategies, goal progression, self-efficacy, task selection, and long-term psychological well-being.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive and enjoyment one experiences while engaging in a task. When faced with easier tasks, the feeling of accomplishment derived from completing them can be a powerful intrinsic motivator. By tackling simpler tasks first, you get a sense of progress and satisfaction, which can fuel your motivation to continue working on more challenging endeavors.

Extrinsic Motivation

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation stems from external factors such as rewards, grades, or recognition. While completing easier tasks may not offer tangible rewards or recognition, it can still enhance your extrinsic motivation indirectly. By crossing off items from your to-do list, you create a positive feedback loop, increasing your confidence and making it easier to tackle more complex tasks that may offer external rewards.

Motivation Research Studies

Numerous studies have explored the link between task difficulty and motivation. One such study conducted by Teresa M. Amabile and her colleagues found that individuals who consistently completed easier tasks first reported higher levels of motivation and engagement in their work compared to those who tackled difficult tasks right away. This research highlights the impact of task difficulty sequencing on motivation levels.

Psychological Impact of Completing Easier Tasks First

Sense of Achievement

Successfully completing an easy task can provide an immediate sense of achievement and accomplishment. This feeling can be highly motivating, boosting your confidence and generating a positive mindset. It serves as a reminder that you are capable of overcoming challenges, setting the stage for tackling more demanding tasks with optimism and determination.

Boost in Confidence

Completing easier tasks builds your confidence by allowing you to demonstrate your competence and capabilities. This boost in self-esteem can create a positive cycle, leading to increased motivation and a willingness to take on more difficult tasks. As your confidence grows, you are more likely to approach complex problems with a belief in your ability to find solutions, ultimately enhancing your overall motivation levels.

Reduced Procrastination Tendencies

Procrastination often arises from a sense of overwhelm and uncertainty about where to start on a task. By prioritizing easier tasks, you eliminate potential obstacles that contribute to procrastination. With each completed task, the sense of progress fosters a proactive mindset and minimizes the temptation to delay or avoid challenging responsibilities. By reducing procrastination tendencies, you maintain higher motivation levels and increase productivity.

Enhanced Productivity

Starting on a Positive Note

Beginning your workday by tackling easier tasks sets a positive tone for the rest of your agenda. The satisfaction of accomplishing quick wins early on can provide the momentum needed to propel you through the more complex tasks that lie ahead. This positive mindset can boost your productivity and motivation throughout the day, allowing you to accomplish more in less time.

Flow State Facilitation

Flow state, often referred to as being “in the zone,” is a mental state characterized by complete absorption and optimal performance. By starting with easier tasks, you can ease into your workflow and gradually enter a flow state. This state of deep concentration and productivity helps increase motivation, as you become fully engaged in the task at hand. By experiencing flow, you maximize your efficiency and overall performance.

Managing Cognitive Load

Preventing Mental Exhaustion

Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort required to complete a task. Starting with easier tasks allows you to gradually increase your cognitive load, avoiding excessive mental strain early on. This approach helps prevent mental exhaustion and allows you to maintain higher motivation levels throughout the day. By strategically managing your cognitive load, you ensure that your energy and focus are sustained for more demanding tasks later on.

Optimizing Decision-Making Abilities

Decision-making abilities can be impaired when faced with excessive mental fatigue or overwhelm. By completing easier tasks first, you free up mental resources and decision-making capacity for more complex challenges. This approach optimizes your cognitive abilities, allowing you to make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and maintain high motivation levels.

Task Prioritization Strategies

Using the Eisenhower Matrix

Task prioritization is crucial for effective time management and motivation. The Eisenhower Matrix, popularized by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, offers a simple yet powerful framework for prioritizing tasks based on their importance and urgency. By placing easier tasks in the “do first” quadrant, you can ensure that you start your day with achievable tasks that boost your motivation and set the stage for successful goal attainment.

Applying the ABCDE Method

Another valuable task prioritization method is the ABCDE method, devised by legendary productivity expert Brian Tracy. Assigning letters to tasks according to their priority level enables you to focus on completing the easier tasks first (marked with A or B), facilitating a sense of progress and maintaining motivation. This approach helps you avoid getting overwhelmed by more challenging tasks and ensures that you consistently move forward.

Considering Task Dependencies

When organizing your tasks, it is essential to consider dependencies between different activities. Completing easier tasks first can help set the foundation for subsequent and more complex tasks. By addressing tasks that serve as prerequisites or pave the way for others, you establish a logical progression and build momentum. This approach ensures that your motivation is sustained by the natural flow of task completion.

Impact on Goal Progression

Building Momentum

Completing easier tasks first serves as a catalyst for building momentum towards achieving larger goals. Each accomplishment fuels your motivation, propels you forward, and creates positive inertia. As you accumulate completed tasks, the sense of progress becomes more tangible, providing vital encouragement and momentum to tackle more significant challenges. Building consistent momentum enhances your goal progression and overall motivation.

Maintaining Motivation

By prioritizing easier tasks, you maintain a steady stream of accomplishments and avoid prolonged periods of stagnation. The frequent taste of success and the satisfaction derived from completing tasks helps sustain your motivation levels. This consistent forward motion keeps you engaged and committed to your goals, even during times when external or internal factors might challenge your enthusiasm.

Measuring Progress

Completing easier tasks first allows for measurable progress and tracking of achievements. By setting clear goals and milestones, you can monitor your progress and celebrate small wins along the way. This process reinforces your motivation by providing tangible evidence of advancement and reminding you of the distance covered towards your ultimate objectives. Measuring progress helps you stay motivated and fosters a sense of purpose.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

Deadline Constraints

While prioritizing easier tasks can boost motivation, it is crucial to navigate potential time constraints wisely. Balancing the completion of simpler tasks with the urgency of deadlines is essential to avoid compromising the timely completion of more challenging responsibilities. Incorporating effective time management techniques, such as setting realistic deadlines and breaking down complex tasks, can help mitigate the challenges posed by time constraints.

Balancing Task Difficulty

Striking a balance between easier and more difficult tasks is key to maintaining motivation and avoiding burnout. While it is beneficial to start with simpler tasks, neglecting more complex ones indefinitely may lead to stagnation or an unfinished backlog. Balancing task difficulty ensures that you challenge yourself appropriately while leveraging the positive impact of completing easier tasks to sustain motivation and productivity.

Overcoming Bias

It is essential to remain aware of potential biases that can influence task selection and prioritization. While easier tasks offer immediate gratification and a sense of progress, they may not always align with the larger strategic goals and priorities. Overcoming bias requires deliberate and critical evaluation of tasks, ensuring they contribute to long-term objectives rather than merely providing fleeting satisfaction. Striking a balance between short-term wins and the broader perspective is crucial for sustained motivation.

The Role of Self-Efficacy

Perceived Competence

Self-efficacy, a concept introduced by psychologist Albert Bandura, refers to one's belief in their ability to successfully complete tasks and achieve goals. By completing easier tasks first, you enhance your perceived competence, reinforcing the belief that you are capable of taking on more challenging endeavors. This boost in self-efficacy fuels your motivation and helps you approach complex tasks with greater confidence and determination.


Completing easier tasks allows for regular self-evaluation and reflection. By objectively assessing your performance on simpler tasks, you can identify areas for improvement and apply lessons learned to more complex challenges. This self-evaluation process helps refine your skills, enhances your decision-making abilities, and fosters ongoing growth and development. By leveraging self-evaluation, you maintain a growth mindset and ensure continuous motivation.

Resilience and Adaptability

Tackling easier tasks first nurtures resilience and adaptability. When faced with setbacks or unexpected obstacles, the confidence and motivation gained from completing simpler tasks provide a solid foundation for overcoming adversity. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and bounce back from setbacks ensures that your motivation remains intact, enabling you to navigate challenges with determination and perseverance.

Cognitive Dissonance and Task Selection

The Irresistible Temptation

Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is a psychological conflict between your beliefs, attitudes, or values and your actions. When confronted with difficult tasks, the temptation to engage in easier, more familiar activities can be strong, leading to cognitive dissonance. By intentionally selecting and completing easier tasks first, you mitigate this temptation, aligning your actions with your long-term goals and minimizing cognitive dissonance.

Adjusting Expectations

Prioritizing easier tasks allows you to manage your expectations effectively. It is unrealistic to expect immediate success in complex endeavors. By adjusting your expectations and recognizing that progress occurs incrementally, you can set realistic goals and milestones. Completing easier tasks first helps you maintain realistic expectations, fostering a positive outlook and preventing frustration or discouragement.

Managing Frustration

Frustration often arises when faced with significant challenges or when progress is slower than expected. By completing easier tasks first, you build a foundation of accomplishments that can help manage frustration. Tangible achievements provide a source of encouragement, reminding you of your capabilities and motivating you to persevere through difficulties. This perspective allows you to approach setbacks with resilience and determination, minimizing frustration's negative impact.

Long-Term Impact on Psychological Well-being

Increased Job Satisfaction

Prioritizing and completing easier tasks positively impact job satisfaction. By regularly experiencing a sense of accomplishment and progress, you develop a positive association with your work. This satisfaction reinforces your motivation, enhances your engagement, and fosters a productive and fulfilling work environment. By consistently working on and completing achievable tasks, you contribute to a more satisfying and purposeful professional life.

Reduction in Stress Levels

Being overwhelmed by a backlog of challenging tasks can lead to increased stress levels. By addressing easier tasks first, you prevent the accumulation of stress-inducing responsibilities. Completing these tasks provides a sense of control and alleviates the burden of an ever-growing to-do list. Reducing stress levels through task completion enables you to maintain a healthier work-life balance and enhances your overall psychological well-being.

Fostering a Positive Mindset

Frequent completion of easier tasks fosters a positive mindset that extends beyond the immediate work context. As you experience regular successes, your subconscious mind begins to associate work with positive emotions and a sense of achievement. This positive mindset permeates other aspects of your life, leading to increased self-confidence, improved relationships, and a more optimistic outlook. Prioritizing easier tasks has a ripple effect, creating a more fulfilling and positive overall well-being.

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