Have you had your frog this morning? That probably sounds a little insane, unless, of course, you are someone who likes to have frogs for breakfast.
Hey, it’s possible. Maybe.
Let’s try another question.
Are you buried in to-dos today? If you are a blogger, writer, mom, worker, etc. most likely you are. There is ALWAYS something to be done. If you are like me, you have a post that is due today or tomorrow that you have not started. This post goes out Saturday morning and I am working on it at 6:20 PM Friday night.
It could be worse. At least it’s not midnight. Yet.
Procrastination is a curse that most of us contend with on a daily basis. Why do today what can be done tomorrow? So goes the procrastinator’s motto. The only problem with that philosophy is that now you have added additional stress to tomorrow.
Stress is never good. You know that.
So stop procrastinating! How? Learn this lesson about frogs.
Now you are thinking, “But what does procrastination have to do with frogs?”
Good question. Bear with me a moment while I give you some background for this post.
In the last two months, I have been spending copious amounts of time reading advice online and off about blogging and working as a freelancer. In one of the posts, and forgive me that for the moment I can’t remember which one, the writer referred to this quote by Mark Twain:
The quote has been stuck in my head ever since I read it. Mr. Twain, or Mr. Clemens as the case may be, was not really advocating for the eating of live frogs.
Well, at least I don’t think he was. Not having known him personally, I can’t say with certainty what he meant.
I have chosen to believe that the point he was trying to make was to stop procrastinating. If we would tackle the worst thing we need to do first thing in the morning, everything else would be downhill from there.
Are you guilty of procrastinating on the tasks you don’t want to do? I know I am. In the corporate world, I often had three piles on my desk: 1. Things that had to be done today, 2. Things that needed to be done soon and 3. Things that were very low priority.
I often put things in pile 2 that I did not want to do. They would often stay there until I was coming up on a deadline before they made it to pile 1. I spent more time dreading the jobs I didn’t want to do than I did actually doing them.
One day I woke up and realized what I was doing to myself. It was crazy for me to cause extra stress by putting off tasks I didn’t want to do. I made a change that day.
I had not heard the quote from Mark Twain at the time. Perhaps if I had, I would have been moved to action sooner.
The change to my day was undeniable. My stress level dropped considerably. I was still having to deal with difficult people and mundane tasks, but by getting those things completed first thing, the rest of my day went much smoother and with much less dread of the remaining work on my desk.
Back to Mark Twain’s quote. He also supposedly said that if you have two frogs to eat, you should eat the bigger one first or something to that effect. I could not easily find this latter quote on the internet.
Again, the point is, at least in my mind, to do the worst things first. Get that big, ugly frog off your plate.
Nothing against frogs.
Here are four important lessons we can learn from this quote:
1. Schedule Eating Your Frog
You have a million things that need to be done. Besides whatever you do for work, you have a home, family, and friends calling for your attention.
Add to that all the little distractions in your day. That, “Oh, my friend just posted new pictures on Facebook,” that turns into hours of browsing. You know what I mean.
Make yourself accountable. Schedule those tasks you don’t want to do just like you would schedule any other appointment or job. Go ahead and put it on your calendar. And be sure to schedule it early in the day so you can stop dreading it.
When that time comes, do the task. No grumbling or complaining. Do it and move on.
2. Prepare Your Frog in Advance
You can take a lot of stress out of your morning by planning your day the night before. Taking just 10-15 minutes at the end of the day to plan the following day means that tomorrow you can wake up and start the day without having to think about what needs to be done. You have a plan and a schedule.
Many people do this already with lunches or planning outfits. I’m not a morning person so the fewer things I have to do in the morning the better. That means ironing any items the night before is a necessity. Fortunately, now that I am working from home, there’s a whole lot less ironing to be done.
3. Don’t Eat Every Frog
There are dozens of tasks calling for our attention in a typical day. Lessen some the distractions by choosing to ignore some of them. Not every task deserves your attention. And not every decision is life altering.
Some people find some relief in this regard by making consistent decisions by the day of the week. For instance, many busy moms have a weekly schedule for meals: Monday is spaghetti, Friday is pizza, etc.
Mark Zuckerberg made an interesting comment about unnecessary decisions in this interview from 2014. He was asked why he was so often seen wearing the same looking t-shirt or hoodie. His response?
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” Zuckerberg felt, at least at the time, that deciding what to wear was a decision he didn’t need to spend mental energy on.
So he bought multiples of the same items. With only one color shirt in the drawer or hoodie on the rack and you don’t have to decide what to put on.
This may be an extreme example, but there are likely little decisions in your life that you can stop making. Take some time to think about it.
4. Don’t Let Other Frogs Distract You
How many social media alerts have you gotten just while reading this post? As soon as you finish reading this, go turn off ALL of those notifications.
Stopping what you are doing every 5-10 minutes to read updates is only causing you more stress.
I’m serious. Go turn them off. You will thank me later.
This doesn’t mean you should give up social media entirely. It’s fun to see what others are doing and to interact with your friends and followers. But set limits. Just like you wouldn’t let a real frog hop everywhere in your house, set boundaries for social media.
Read Lesson 4 in the I’ve Learned series
For many people setting a timer helps. Start an egg timer or set an alarm on your phone and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to play, say 30-60 minutes. But, when that timer goes off, so should social media. Get back to work and ignore social media until your next scheduled play-break.
Rooting procrastination out of your life is an ongoing process. Don’t get discouraged if you find yourself frequently slipping backwards. No course to self-improvement is always forward motion.
What’s important is that you keep working on it.
Every time you tackle those difficult tasks first thing, give yourself the right to celebrate a little. Give yourself a pat on the back or a high-five because hopefully the worst part of your day is now over.
Remember that good feeling and remind yourself the next time you are tempted to procrastinate.
What tips do you have for overcoming procrastination? How did these tips help you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Until next time…