Complete That Most Difficult, Annoying, Dreaded Task First
We all procrastinate. We postpone deadlines, and we feel the need to reorganize our photo albums before writing a problematic email. Our 10-minute coffee break turns into a 2-hour Tik-tok special, just before our critical presentations. We do have many alerts, reminders that need our attention, phone calls, pandemic headlines, and, yes, zero inbox responsibility. If it takes a minute to reply, we take that 1 minute. We might have a stellar performance in completing smaller to-dos, but how about big ones? The one you keep sweeping under the rug, next to the other, weeks-old TPS report that you still need to rewrite.
Brian Tracy (1944) is a motivational speaker, a self-help guru. Tracy wrote about the subject in 2017. He claims to distill his ideas from management consultants and legends like Peter Drucker and Stephen Covey. He proposes that if you need to eat a live frog, better do that early in the morning and finish your job with it to know the worst part of the day is over.
Let’s stop for a minute and dive into the analogy. What is that live frog in the business context? Usually, it can be one of or a combination of these:
· One big task that will have the most significant impact on your business or personal life
· One periodical report that you need to complete, and known to be a late submitter.
· Planning one difficult call, you need to make internally or externally
· Planning how to ask the boss a raise
What happens if you have more than one frog. Well, the answer is straightforward, start with the ugly one! Also, you need to do this very fast. It does not make sense to look at that ugliest frog for a long time.
In business life, often, we see many great ideas emerge in meetings. However, more often, we see failure to execute these ideas. If you would like to become an action-oriented, measurable results machine, you need to create a routine, like our previous zero-inbox strategy, to tackle those frogs.
But Which Frogs?
Usually, writing a to-do list is a great idea. In modern life, it is even easier to keep an electronic to-do list. You do not need a sophisticated app. Please do not procrastinate by searching hours for that perfect personal productivity app. I will give it to you right here. It is an excellent old-fashioned text-based notepad. Alternatively, you can use your email. You can send yourself an email with the subject line of what needs to be done. Remember our zero-inbox habit? You can create a folder called frogs and tackle them first in the morning when you have the highest energy, most clear mind, and 100% willpower. If you want, you can create an ugliness scale, but it is not necessary. You always know which one is the ugliest when you look at your frog list.
How to Start?
So far, everything looks good on paper, but in reality, dear reader, you and I both know that it is not that easy as it sounds. Evolutionarily we tend to postpone the things that cause frustration and stress. Instead, we reach for that instant gratification that is available immediately.
I propose you start like this:
1. Go to bed with a firm commitment to yourself that tomorrow will be a new day and start a new habit.
2. Wake up earlier: Regardless of office or work from home situation, make sure you wake up at least 1 hour before your usual. Apple CEO Tim Cook is known to be an early email sender at 04:30 AM.
3. Make up your bed: I am not kidding. This will be your first task of the day, and you will be finishing in less than one minute. An instant success, instant gratification. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit says, "Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget." There you go, you gulped your first frog.
4. That 1 hour is your quality frog time. Your initial ugly frog will be the organization of your thoughts, priorities into lists. I do not expect any of you to make a life-changing critical decision on your first try, but starting lists and prioritizing is immensely powerful. They are usually as powerful as completing the tasks.
5. Once you have your prioritized lists, your will cross them subsequently. Add the tasks to your list as soon as they arrive.
6. Use the early mornings' distraction freeness to your benefit. This is the best time to focus, meditate and find meaning in what you need to do.
7. Make sure to have some victories from your first session. If you cannot manage to eat that nasty frog, make sure you have some other smaller tasks checked off from your list.
To eat that frog requires immense willpower, but as soon as you start developing this new habit, you will sense that your brain is building new neural pathways and cruise on auto-pilot with profound accomplishments at the rearview mirror.
Like any good self-development tool, a habit of eating frogs will bring you energy, elevated levels of self-esteem, confidence, and release of endorphins which will put you in a reinforcing feedback loop: Success! Combining zero-inbox with eating frogs will give you a structure in your life that will lead you to step away from bad procrastinating habits but, more importantly, accountability to yourself.
NEXT: Get a Journal!
 TPS is an acronym meaning "Totally Pointless Stuff" in the modern cubicle culture, which was made famous in the movie Office Space.