Reduce Work Stress: Do Your Most Important Work First

How do you organize your work day?  Do you focus on certain important tasks or projects first thing in the morning, before other things can get in the way?  Or do you just do things whenever you feel like it?  It’s an interesting question, as I believe how we approach our day can affect our level of stress and sense of work-life balance.

Has this ever happened to you: You get to the office, turn on your computer, and start checking email. Then you respond to a few calls and check more email. Then you surf the web and check the news and latest info on topics that interest you. Then answer another call.

All of a sudden, it is lunchtime. And you have no idea where your morning went? And you’re mad at yourself for not accomplishing the project or task that you had planned to do, but never got down to it?

Yep, it’s happened to me…and I’m pretty sure it’s happened to all of us at one time or another. I’ve noticed that when I fritter away my morning, or day, like this and have nothing to show for it, I start to feel the stress level rising.  I start to feel overwhelmed because I haven’t made progress on the important things on my to-do list.

As a result, I either have to work late to make up for the time I lost (which means my family is now being impacted) or I just put it off until the next day, where the cycle could start all over again.

So, how can we organize our work day in way that reduces workplace stress and maintains our work-life balance?

Unclutterer shared this tip recently:  Do your most important work first, at the beginning of your day. That way, you ensure that you do your best and most important work when you are at your best, and before you get bogged down by other distractions that may come your way later in the day.

I’ve followed this approach for some time, but have modified it slightly.  I plan my most important tasks twice a day:  first thing in the morning, and first thing after lunch.  I do it this way because I know these are my most productive times of the day. By doing this, I guarantee that I’ll be at my best when it comes time to focus on a project.

How do you structure your work day? When are your most productive times?Do you get your most important tasks completed first thing in the morning? Or, do you procrastinate and put off the hard work hoping that maybe it will just go away? Tell me what works best for you in the comments section.

You might also like:
Can time-tagging your to-do list increase productivity?
Work-life balance defined:  What is it, and how do you achieve it?
How to shave 10 hours off your work week


  1. I find these insights operate really powerful in my own life. When I start with the most important tasks first my day flows peacefully. I accomplish more. I avoid the end of afternoon stress when I feel pressured about not having essential work done. It is so much easier when I do the essentials and basics first. The only problem is it takes discipline and courage to make a plan and follow through on it.
    Another major stress relief tip for my work is to get regular meals and regular physical exercise. This is basic self care. If I don’t exercise then the stress of feeling cooped up behind my desk and computer makes the discipline of following a plan just to difficult. If I don’t eat well then fluctuating blood sugar makes focus difficult. But when I have eaten nourishing food, exercised and moved, then I am much more able to settle down and do the most important things first.

  2. Sure needed to read this today! I have been putting off a major task for so long and I need to just get it done. Yesterday I did make a little dent in it so I’m happy about that but there is still a lot to do.

    Your post reminds me about that book, Eat That Frog, where you put the task you dislike the most first and get it over with. Have you read that book?

    I definitely need to restructure my days working at home because I dilly dally a lot.

    • Life Compass says

      Angie, I have not read “Eat that Frog,” but I’m a huge fan of Brian Tracy and have heard him speak on the topic. I can appreciate that topic, as I ate a frog, stuffed with lemongrass, when I was in Cambodia a few years ago. 🙂

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