When you start a project or any endeavour, do the hardest thing first. ‘Hardest thing first’ isn’t just a strategy like eating the food you hate first so that you can enjoy the rest of the meal. Doing the hardest thing first will ensure that you can achieve the change that you want.
If you aren’t able to make the full change you want, you can either choose whether what you can do is good enough, or if you’re going to pull the plug the on the project.
How It Usually Works
Usually, when we start a project, we start with the easy work. If you are starting a business, you come up with an idea and get business cards printed. If you are coding an app, you decide on the UI layout and the programming language. It makes sense that we start with the easy stuff because that is what we know how to do. We also feel that we should get the foundation under us so that we have a framework to finish the project.
The problem is that a project, focused on delivering a new result, has work that will be hard. And if you do the hard work first, it will shape how the rest of the project works.
The ‘Hardest Thing’ Gap
There is a gap between what we can do and what we want to achieve. When you initiate a project, if you focus on the hardest thing first, you will know whether you will be able to succeed or not. Building a new type of mobile device experience is hard, but Blackberry (previously RIM) created a new device. At the same time, in the early days, some customers were never charged for their services. Invoicing is an easy problem to fix. Creating a new product is hard (as Blackberry subsequently demonstrated when they couldn’t bring something that customers loved to market.)
Identifying The Hardest Thing
Identifying the hardest thing is easy. Look at the work that you aren’t doing. That is most likely the hardest thing to do. What piece of work do you want magically fixed? What do you know to be necessary, but you have trouble spending time on? That is the hardest thing. Focus on solving that problem first. Then worry about the easy stuff that you are working on right now.
Working On The Hardest Thing
There are a lot of tools that people use to work on the hardest thing. Here are a few:
- Minimum Viable Product: For understanding, if customers will purchase the product you are building.
- Single-page sites: for understanding if people are interested in your product because they ask for more information or sign up.
- Prototypes: To figure out if you can build something that will solve the most challenging part of the problem.
- Models: To understand how people will interact with what you have built.
Do The Hardest Thing First
Do the hardest thing first. If you are going to make an impact, you are going to have to do it eventually. When you do the hardest thing first, the rest of your work is then built out of it.