Seed World

Do the Hardest Thing First

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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A few weeks ago, I started to spend a few minutes each Monday morning creating a To-Do List of the major items I wanted to complete during the week. It helped to prioritize my time and keep me from getting distracted  by the flurry of emails and phone calls that typically greet me at the start of a new week.

My list was jotted down in thought order.  Then, I sorted it by priority. Next, I checked off each task as completed. I started to notice that it felt really good to check tasks off, so I began to gravitate to starting with the quickest and easiest tasks first and left the more difficult items for later. I thought I could really clean up the list by knocking out the easiest ones first. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment. It’s only Tuesday and look at how many things are crossed off my list!

Come Wednesday, new items started to pop up. I added them to the list. I would then again, start with the easiest, shortest tasks and again check them off the list. Come Thursday and Friday, more items would get added to my list. By the end of the week, I had cleared the entire list except for a couple tough projects. Great accomplishment, right? A few more weeks passed and the list grew longer and longer. It was now comprised of mostly challenging projects.

The presence of multiple challenging projects on the list negated the feeling of accomplishment that checking off the easiest items provided. That feeling became overwhelming. So many tough tasks to do and not enough time do them all.

Then I changed my priorities. I need to just get one of them done. Leave the new, easier projects for later and just get through at least one major item. I got it done quicker than expected. I had a little jolt of motivation, so I took on another tough one. Again, it took less time than expected. I then knew that I could get through this list!

The experience changed my approach. Doing the hardest things first created less pressure on the subsequent days and allowed me to work more efficiently. It seems against human nature, but doing the hardest things first frees your schedule and clears your mind so you can be at your most efficient and effective!