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The Lead Domino

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Imagine you have written a to-do list that fills up an entire page of your notebook. While this feels more organized than keeping the list in your head, you’re overwhelmed by how many items are on that list. Every item is high-priority and they all need to be completed in a timely fashion. Everyone runs into this situation, and such situations warrant a more efficient system. 

An efficient system can create a domino effect of task completion. One domino knocks over the next and the next, and the momentum is perpetuated in a chain reaction. 

If you begin with a “lead domino” task, you can build the momentum needed to cross off the rest of your list items more easily—even if they are exponentially larger. Often, by achieving one key task on the list, the rest of the tasks will be significantly easier. 

If you set up 13 dominos in a row, each domino one and a half times bigger than the one before, the first domino could be five millimeters tall and the last domino could be more than one meter tall and weigh 100 pounds. If you knock the first domino over, after just 13 “reactions,” the largest domino would topple over easily. We can apply this idea to our lists. The “lead domino” task is like the 5 millimeter domino; if you get this one accomplished, toppling over the 100 pound domino at the end will be much easier than trying to push over the heaviest domino first.

How can we identify the lead domino? 

Completing the lead domino may take longer and be more tedious, but by tackling this task first the other tasks will be easier to complete going forward. Your lead domino could be anything from outlining a paper, or even going for a run! Both of these activities are examples of “lead dominos” that will give you the momentum to get your work (or your day!) started.