Mark Twain once said, “If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!” Delicious thought, right? This is a concept that at first might sound humorous, outlandish, absurd even. I’m hoping by the time you’re done reading this post, I will prove that this nonsensical theory Twain had is nothing short of genius.
Many of us make a daily task list (mental or literal), which includes several small, easy-to-attain tasks, but almost always also includes at least one looming, difficult task . . . your frog. What often happens is that we take small bites out of our lists by first completing the easier tasks--check! This only pushes that massive, slimy task further down the list, sometimes even forcing it to leap onto tomorrow’s task list. The process for tomorrow starts over and that monstrous task will keep hopping from one day to the next, croaking at you, ever-louder, ever-larger, than the day before. This is what is called procrastination. It is where anxiety, stress and frustration breed, none of which will aid you in any sort of task-completion.
Try this instead: tackle your hardest task first thing in the morning. When you make your daily list, choose to start with the one that takes highest priority first. Swallow that frog! Tackle that amphibian! It will set the tone, and momentum, for the rest of your day and pretty soon there won’t be a tadpole, or dragon, you cannot slay.
Brian Tracy wrote a book entitled “Eat That Frog!” where he suggests once you start this practice of completing the toughest task first, you must continue to make it a habit. Our brains are muscles. Muscles need exercise. As we exercise them, they become more capable of developing a habit. Tracy claims we can develop a “positive addiction to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger.” Addicted to success and contribution can never be a bad thing, right?
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” - Aristotle
What if, on a particular day, you have two frogs? To this, Tracy said, “if you have to eat more than one frog, eat the ugliest one first.” The key is to not get distracted. What are your most common distractions?
Email Management: Emails can be a huge distraction. Many of us fall into a routine of checking email first thing in the morning, which takes our focus off of the bigger tasks. One idea is to make set times to check your email, say 11:00 and 3:00. Communicate those times to clients, and if there is something more pressing, tell them to call. Better yet, have your secretary filter out any unnecessary emails, because chances are 90% of what comes in is spam. Again, this would be a change in what you are used to, but if the habit is created, you’ll find your day so much more productive.
Don’t take shortcuts: I once heard someone say that anything worth doing is worth doing right. If your task is time-consuming, block out the time to make sure it is done completely and done well. If it is something you can’t do alone, then call in the cavalry, or staff, to help in accomplishing it efficiently and timely.
Truth be told, the business world rewards those who are not just running around making themselves busy, but those who produce real results. Successful people create a habit of producing real results. The only way to do that is to devour your “frogs” first thing each morning. So grab a little salt and a green, slimy friend and bon appetit!
Tell Us: What is your common distraction that keeps you from eating your frog first thing in the morning?