What’s the best way to make your day more productive? One method many productivity experts promote is “eating the frog.”
No, I’m not suggesting you chow down on a live amphibian every morning. The “eat the frog” concept comes from Mark Twain, who once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. Sales expert Brian Tracy embraced the concept in his book Eat That Frog!
Essentially, eating the frog means tackling that big, unpleasant task you’ve been putting off the first thing in the morning, so you can get it over with and move on with your day. By eating the frog, the theory goes, you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment—even if the rest of your day gets eaten up by putting out fires in your business or replying to emails, you’ll have done something that really matters to your business. (Ironically, the tasks we tend to put off are usually the ones that have the most potential to make a difference to our business.)
How can you make eating the frog work for you? Here are three steps:
- Block out time. Most of us look for any excuse to not eat the frog, so it’s important to block out a period of time each morning when you’ll focus on doing this task to the exclusion of all else. If necessary, get into the office before anyone else so you can work uninterrupted, or head to a coffeehouse where you can work alone. Shut down email and turn off your phone if you don’t think you can resist the temptation to check every incoming text.
- Break it down. You may not be able to eat the whole frog in one morning. (In most cases, the overwhelming size of the task is part of the reason you’ve been putting it off.) Instead, break the job down into smaller parts. For example, if you’re putting off getting your financial documents ready to apply for a bank loan, think about every step involved, such as updating your accounting data, inputting your expense receipts, making an appointment to meet with your accountant, etc. Spread the smaller tasks out so that you do a few of them each day (until your “frog-eating” time has been used up). You’ll make a little progress every day. As you chip away at the frog, it will become less intimidating to you, and you’ll gain momentum as you see the end of the task in sight.
- Reward yourself. Once you’ve eaten that morning’s frog, it’s not an excuse to coast the rest of the day—but it is time to reward yourself. Take a short break (like a walk around the office to grab some coffee and check in with your employees), do some easy tasks that you enjoy (you can check more to-do’s off your list, without as much struggle as eating the frog) or do something else to reward yourself. Rewards will reinforce the frog-eating behavior and make it easier to make this new habit stick.
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