“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.” —Brian Tracy
I am a list-maker. I have digital lists, mental lists, paper lists, lists for lists. I also have a rubber stamp in the shape of a frog and a green ink pad beside it. (At home, I have a little brown self-inking stamp of a cartoon pile of poo.)
Mark Twain purportedly said that thing about the frog, and modern productivity gurus have since used the imagery to talk about how to tackle procrastination. I have to admit that the idea has stuck with me. It just makes sense to attack the most horrid thing on my list when my day is fresh, so that the rest of my day can automagically feel cruisier after I’ve polished off the unpalatable.
So what I do is scan my list and then select the most dreaded task of the lot. And then I take my rubber stamp out and mark it.
That’s the easy part. The difficult bit is knuckling down to actually eat the frog.
The most straightforward solution is to Just Do It. But that can feel insurmountable when you’re facing a real toad of a problem you don’t really want to touch. And this is when I find the 15-minute promise often sells the job to me. It works pretty much exactly as it sounds: I tell myself that I only have to stick at it for 15 minutes. I shut my phones off. I set the timer. I think up a reward at the end (a large coffee, a small chocolate, a chat with a colleague, shoe shopping, breakfast at Tiffany’s…) And then I start.
And honestly, I often surprise myself. Because 15 minutes is just short enough for chores to appear tolerable, and yet long enough to get the momentum going. And if the timer goes and you’ve had enough, that’s great — you’ve made a start at least. But if the timer goes and you’re in the zone… then look out! You might just finish that frog and the day is looking mighty fine thereafter.
BTW, Mark Twain really did say something about procrastination: “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well.” Funny guy. Don’t listen to him.