What Does It Mean To Do The Easy Thing First?

Fatema Mernissi, the Moroccan feminist and author of the memoir Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood says that her grandmother once told her: A woman’s life is hard. Do the easy thing first.
I’ve often thought about this, without the sense that I fully understand it. Certainly, women’s lives are difficult in specific ways. For many of us of us, our grandmothers’ lives were harder. I assume Mernissi’s grandmother was talking about not just disempowerment and patriarchy, but also obligation and character. And perhaps also desire, and hope.
So, what does it mean to do the easy thing first? I’ve tried to practice this when I’m frazzled and overwhelmed. Water the garden. Grade papers. Tidy up. Grounding things that I know how to do, that need to be done. It works.
But what about doing difficult things—long put off projects, delayed honest conversation, harsh fiscal realities? It seems like here I have to struggle against procrastination.
On the other hand, the older I get, the more I respect easy. The marriage that seems meant to be. The grant project that appears to write itself. The obvious next step in taking care of something. Should I post my grandiose solution to the world’s ills on Facebook or should I volunteer or get to know my neighbors? Small is “easy.” I’ll do it first.

Meow Wolf Image (where whatever you do is easy!)

8 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Do The Easy Thing First?

  1. I never understood the constant admonitions from teachers and organizational experts that you should always do the hardest (homework, work assignment, household chores…) first. Doing the easy things first is and has always been my biggest weapon in the fight against procrastinating when it comes to the hard things. If I impose on myself the requirement that I have to do the hard thing first (unspoken corollary “or else do nothing”), then I do nothing (translation: I mindlessly surf the internet, watch Netflix for half the day, and/or obsessively ruminate over past slights and mistakes). If I give myself permission to do the easy things first (my definition of the “easy things” is the things that genuinely need to get done, but that don’t fill me with a sense of fear and loathing), I get them all done quickly and have a sense of accomplishment that gives me the mental energy and confidence I need to do the hard things. (Also, after the time I took to do the easy things, I’m probably getting pretty close to my deadline for doing the hard things, so that gives me even more motivation.) If I find myself REALLY procrastinating on something hard that I know I have to/should do, then I know it’s time to go do some easy household chores or organize a closet or something to get me past that mental block.

  2. Many years ago my mentor utilized a phrase that I still employ today – “pick the low hanging fruit first.” I wield this simple advice weekly, if not daily, in sorting through the many tasks on my plate. This prompt against procrastination applies tallow to the skids on the snow sled allowing a smoother ride through a task filled day.

  3. I’m one of those weirdoes….I am the complete opposite of procrastination. I do the hardest thing first, so there’s less anxiety. But then what often happens is, things are done too fast (in haste) and then there’s do-over. When I can stick to “what’s right in front of me”, the next task presents itself (along with less stress). There’s a lot to be said for the middle-way.

  4. From reader Michael G.Smith–I generally take a shower first. Then do what needs to be done. It’s all “easy” once I am going – first this foot, then that foot. Or, as Zennists say “chop wood,
    carry water”.

  5. While I don’t know why the specific line may have a different meaning for women, doing the easy thing first has helped me gain some mental calm. It is easy, routine and my mind is no longer worried about the immense fiscal pressure, career choices.

    My brain becomes focused and tackles everything logically. Great post

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