What’s the first rule you learned about test-taking in grade school?
Answer the easy questions first, then go back and work on the harder ones.
For tests, this makes sense. It games the system to ensure the student gets as many points as possible, for the highest grade they can achieve.
Unfortunately, this very lesson – so valuable to good marks in school – is often still practiced well into adulthood unconsciously, with unintended consequences.
There’s a pile of mail next to the computer. We pick up the stack, go through it quickly to weed out the easy items – junk mail or other trash, usually – and then the “hard” items go back into the pile for later. When there’s time.
Difficult letters or emails? We’ll handle them later. When there’s time to get them right.
The clutter…. Hard decisions… Same deal. Take on the easy items, then focus your energy on the challenges.
Thing is, with the school tests, there was always a hard finish. When the teacher called time, the pencils went down, and that was it. Those tough problems that we put off may have affected our grade, but the questions themselves didn’t linger in our minds. On to the next subject, for the next test!
If only the pile of mail were so considerate! By putting off the difficult decisions, you a) waste time by dealing with the same “to do” items over and over (every time you re-evaluate the comparative ease or difficulty of the items in the collection); b) you spend additional mental anguish and energy every time you look at those items you’re putting off and; c) putting off things as a grown-up can have nasty consequences, including overdue fees, lost belongings, missed opportunities, and who knows what else.
All I am saying is: we need to learn new patterns beyond those we picked up in school. True fact.