Brian Tracy’s classic book Eat That Frog, focuses on one of the consequences of our fear – procrastination. We all have tasks and activities that might be necessary but not fun. We might fear the social awkwardness, the potential for rejection, the potential for things to be hard or the potential for us to get things wrong. His advice is simple: start the day by ‘eating a frog’ – by doing the most difficult thing on your to-do list. This is a powerful piece of psychology.
Firstly, think of the inefficiency of procrastination. Procrastinating about something means thinking about it over and over again, constantly reminding yourself that you’re not doing it, while simultaneously distracting yourself with this thought and taking yourself away from whatever else you might have been trying to do. And you keep coming back again and again to how bad you feel about avoiding something. It’s a huge waste of time and mental energy.
Secondly, by starting the day by ‘eating that frog’, what happens is that you know that nothing else can phase you that day. You’ve started the day with your hardest thing, so the rest of the day is like free-wheeling down a hill. Psychologically, beginning with the heavy lifting and getting it out the way is a wonderful feeling.
Thirdly, by building a habit for regularly confronting the things that are hard, you become more comfortable with the fear. You start to see the results that come from confronting fear.
Which tasks over the last few days have been your ‘frogs’? Which ones did you procrastinate the most over and why?
It can be hard to develop the right routines or habits to make this happen. Starting the day thinking too much about that frog can leave you less and less likely to do it. One way around this is to build ‘eating the frog’ or ‘worst first’ into a wider daily habit. Keeping a simple checklist that includes your morning exercise or meditation, your breakfast, your daily to-do list planning and eating your frog can help establish a daily ritual that sets your frog in a wider and more positive context. The frog is just one of several things you do to honour and give thanks for the day and get you set on a good path. No big deal!
So many people focus on apps and systems when it comes to productivity. They spend time too much time organizing their stationery into neat sections and developing intricate filing systems. But how we deal with our own fear and foibles is absolutely critical to establishing good productivity habits. Without the right mindset or the ability to coach and manage yourself, there’ll always be something missing.