David Strittmatter

How to achieve the most annoying tasks

One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the thing you’ve always wanted. Do it now. — Paulo Coelho

Dear friend,

Whenever I face a difficult or annoying task, I do it first thing in the morning.

Here are some examples:

  • I wrote my bachelor’s thesis by blocking 3 hours in the morning with the goal to write 1 page per day.
  • I used to write my newsletters and blog post on Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Saturday, I aimed to find a topic, do little research, and structure the texts. On Sunday, I finished them.
  • I used to run in the morning so that I don’t find an excuse not to do it.

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

There is a whole book around this notion of “eating the frog”. In essence, though, it’s just a simple message: Whenever you face a difficult or annoying task, do it first thing in the morning. And you should aim to have a tangible outcome per working session if the task cannot be completed in a few hours.

Overcome procrastination with the systems

Studies suggest that procrastination chronically affects approximately 15%–20% of adults. Approximately 25% of adults consider procrastination to be a defining personality trait for them.

Chances are high that you procrastinate (i.e., keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring). There are 2 levers to overcome procrastination: (1) Higher discipline, (2) better systems (habits).

Discipline is a skill. Procrastinators lack this skill. And it’s not easy to develop it.

Contrarily, better systems can be established easily. E.g., doing something first thing in the morning is easy. You structure your work/study day so that you have the time in the morning. Either you wake up earlier or postpone other activities later in the day.

Achieve high-level productivity

The key to reaching high levels of productivity is to develop the habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. And you do so before doing anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

2 premises you need to consider:

First, aim for an incremental, tangible outcome per session. If you work on a task that takes more than a few hours to finish, e.g., a work project or thesis, define for yourself an incremental outcome. This incremental outcome should be easy to achieve in 1-2 hours.

Second, do 1 thing at a time, do not multitask. Several studies have shown that multitasking reduces individual productivity by up to 40%. Focus on “eating the frog” and force yourself to do nothing else until you achieved your incremental, tangible outcome.

How do you deal with difficult/annoying tasks? Curious to hear about your experience!

All the best to you and yours,


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