Making Maki is the home of Maki B. It’s where all of life’s parts meet. Figuring out the work-life balance, managing finances, navigating relationships, finding the things that give us joy, appreciating life’s journey and caring for ourselves along the way. Making Maki isn’t about finding any particular thing; it’s about always searching for the best versions of ourselves and making the most of all of life’s lessons and opportunities.
A few days ago, I was doing the usual twenty-minute Netflix scroll until I found something that looked like it would keep my attention for an hour-and-a-half. I found a movie, turned it on and settled in. The movie was interesting enough, but there was one scene that stuck out. Somewhere during the first half, the lead character said there were two groups of people in life: the people who cut the nails of their left hand first and the people who cut the nails of their right hand first.
According to her quick summation, people who cut their left hands first are the people who do the easy things first, while people who cut their right hands first are the folks who prefer to start with the difficult things. I don’t know if the writers intended to make that a point of reflection, but it worked out that way for me. I’m right-handed and pretty much always start with the nails on my left hand. It requires very little concentration and I can knock it out. On the flip side, while cutting the nails on my right hand isn’t insanely difficult, it requires me to go a little slower and actually focus on what I’m doing.
According to the movie, the fact that I start with my left hand means that I jump into the easy, pleasurable things, and drag myself into the dreadful harder stuff. I felt a little guilty for a minute, but then realized that I alternate between the easy and the hard in real life. But let’s be real, who really gets excited about long arduous and painful tasks? Who really gets excited about spring cleaning? Who drives happily to the dentist to have a wisdom tooth removed? Who gets excited to respond to nasty emails? If you said yes to any of these, I’ve got questions.
Since the whole idea of task management got me curious, I decided to do some reading up on it. Unsurprisingly, it seems that putting off the hard stuff is another form of avoidance. Instead of doing the difficult things, we sometimes focus all our attention on the easy stuff, and convince ourselves that we did everything we could on that day. Rather than doing the homework that will take us hours, we pick up the things that will require a few minutes of our attention. By the end of the day we feel like we did everything we could do on the day.
Starting with the easy stuff allows us to convince ourselves that we’ve maximized our time even if we haven’t. While it has its pros, it has quite a few cons. Some pros of starting with the easy stuff include getting the feeling of accomplishment and decreasing the number of outstanding things to deal with. On the other hand, ignoring the hard things results in us losing time and eventually feeling overwhelmed by the difficult tasks that have piled up. That feeling of being overwhelmed or disheartened can take over and you can find yourself in a major rut.
Like most people, I try to plan my days in hope of accomplishing as much as I possibly can. I sometimes start with the easy stuff, and some days I start with the harder stuff before I lose momentum. On the days when I feel like my energy is at its lowest, I intentionally convince myself to deal with the hard stuff first thing in the morning. If I’m able to do the hardest things first on those days, I’m so proud of myself that I continue on with the easy stuff. Once you’ve knocked out a twenty-page report, what are a few emails to confirm your attendance or participation?
This life thing is about balance. Days can’t always be filled with easy tasks. Balance it all out and you may surprise yourself by how well you can do it all.