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How Swallowing a Frog Can Make You More Productive

2011 October 11
tags: Actions, Effectiveness, Priorities, Productivity, Time Management
by Andrew   

Can swallowing a frog really make you more productive?  Metaphorically, yes.

In this article, I’ll discuss applying the metaphor to your daily tasks, and thereby gaining hours of potential productivity that previously would have been wasted.

It has long been said that eating a live frog first thing in the morning will allow you to face the rest of the day knowing the worst has passed.  Not a very appetizing proposition, but very possibly true.  At the very least, most of us will be able to somewhat identify with the sentiment, if not the practice.


The Challenge

For many people, myself included on some days, the greatest obstacle to achieving what we desire on any given day is procrastination, or deferring an unpleasant, tedious, or otherwise undesirable task in favor of doing something – anything – else.  Sometimes, the else is actually work that needs doing; for me, it very nearly always is.

However, we all face those times where we’re working on something that may not be the most productive in terms of overall advancement of our goals or state of accomplishment.

Whether you’re using a system such as GTD to capture and plan all of the items that require action, following any of the myriad other time or task management systems, or simply processing tasks and actions in the order that makes sense on any given day, choosing – consciously or unconsciously – to defer the most unpleasant or daunting task until later has the cumulative effect of sabotaging your efforts.

The sabotage occurs in subtle ways, such as an increasing perception that the other tasks really are important (and they may be) because you’re actually accomplishing work, or in very unsubtle ways like consciously choosing to ignore your trusted action-management system to such an extent that you no longer trust it.

The consequences of that include loss of control of incoming items, increasing stress because you can’t trust your action-capture system, and frustration at the need to worry about all of the undone things that still need doing.


Eating the Frog

So, what’s the solution?  Eat the frog.  Whatever the frog is.  Only you can decide that, because it’s the most unpleasant or most daunting task that faces you today on any – and every – given day.

It might be the same task if you’ve been deferring it a while, or it might be a new task each day if you’re able to effective process all or most of your tasks daily, or if you work in an environment where very daunting tasks are also highly transient.

First, you must identify the frog by assessing what tasks lie before you, which is where a system that captures everything you need to do and organizes it comes in very handy.  GTD is one such system, and is the best I’ve encountered, although there are others, including customizations of GTD.  In fact, I manage my accomplishments with a very customized version.  If you’re stuck in a place where you have no idea where to begin, I’ve written a Getting Started guide.

After identifying the frog, eating it involves accomplishing as much of the task as possible today, and making the decision to devote that much time to it involves both an understanding of your priorities and determining what you really want to accomplish.

Additionally, you must have a reasonable semblance of control over your schedule and be willing to effectively use it.

Lastly, in order to ensure you have enough time to focus on the frog task, delegate other things if you shouldn’t be doing them yourself, and avoid time-wasting productivity killers.

Having finished “eating your frog,” you can face the remains of the day with the satisfaction that the hardest part is past, and if you find yourself at the end of the day when you’re done, then you also have the satisfaction of going home!
Take care, and enjoy life,



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