If you and I sat down over coffee and compared “to do” lists, I’ll bet we’d have one thing in common more often than not: each of our lists would have a few items that have been on there for a while that we just never seem to get to. In my experience there seem to be two reasons:
- They’re big projects or tasks that while require a lot of time we don’t ever seem to have.
- They’re projects or tasks we don’t want to do for one reason or another so we never make the time.
Recently I came across a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse. I first discovered this book through Blinkist (a cool app that provides text and audio book summaries for a low monthly subscription cost), and even the simple highlights and bullet points gave me so many practical ideas for increasing my productivity and work output that I had to pick up the actual book and read more. It’s a quick, easy read and I can’t recommend it enough. (FYI – at the time I’m writing this, the Kindle ebook is only $4.99.)
Does this sound familiar? You sit down in front of your to do list, taking a mental inventory of each task. As you do, with or without thinking about it, you notice these three things: (1) How long will this take me? (2) How urgent is this? (3) Is this something I’m excited to do or something I’m dreading?
Kruse says procrastination and laziness are not the same thing. He describes procrastination as “the habit of putting off less important, less pleasurable tasks by doing easier, more pleasurable tasks.” That simple. We don’t procrastinate because we’re lazy, we procrastinate because we opt to do other things that are more desirable.
He makes a suggestion that I decided to put into practice right away:
Others choose to do the most unpleasant tasks early in the morning in what’s known as the “eat the frog first” strategy. It’s a procrastinating-fighting technique that says if you have something unpleasant to do, just get it out of the way first thing.
If you’ve got to eat a frog, might as well get it over with, right?
Here’s how I’ve been intentional about this. Each afternoon when I’m wrapping up my work day, I make a “must do” list for the next day (I’ve also stopped using “to do” lists but that’s a blog post for another time), making a note of any “frogs” on my list. Each morning, I have some time blocked out to “eat the frogs.” I do it first thing when I get to my office, before checking email, social media, or taking any meetings. Nothing else happens until I’ve eliminated those tasks.
In the few weeks that I’ve been making an intentional practice of eating the frog first, I’ve found that I not only knock off those lingering “to do” items, but I do it with more energy and confidence, and I get a lot more done with the rest of my day. If you find yourself fighting procrastination and with a list of frogs piling up, this might make a huge difference for you too!
I am not an employee or sponsored affiliate of any of the products or companies that are mentioned or linked to in this post, and have not been compensated by them in any way for these references.