July 1, 2016

July Challenge: Eat the Frog

Can you believe it’s July already?! June went by pretty fast, even though I gave up sugar for the month, and now I’m excited that summer is finally here. Sure, we’ve hit some record breaking high 90s temps in Colorado already, but to me, July is the first month that is wholly summer, and I am really pumped to make the most of it.

In order to make the most of it, though, I want to try to get a slightly better handle on my time management. I’ve been feeling kind of overwhelmed lately, with many days consisting of back-to-back meetings so that I can’t even start my work until 5:30pm or so. Not very effective! And on weekends, I’m finding that I often know what chores I have to do – but I put it off doing other less important things and then rolling a bunch of things over to the next weekend. Fortunately, I think I’ve found a challenge that will help me solution both problems: eating the frog.

Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” A great quote, and a great reminder that sometimes we need to just suck it up and do something we don’t really want to do.

But this quote doesn’t just mean that you should do your worst task first so that your day is on an upward trajectory from there. To me, the quote is about procrastinating and prioritizing, and finding time for the things you’d otherwise put off. What is the one thing you should do today that you know you are not likely to get done? The task that would make you feel incredibly accomplished to have done it? That task is your live frog. It’s not necessarily the most urgent thing – it’s the thing that is going to set the tone for the rest of the day and help you accomplish even more. (Kind of like a keystone habit, which I wrote about earlier this week.)

Some parts of my day that are incredibly important are already planned. Yesterday, I would say the most important thing in my day was presenting to a VP at my client. But I had a meeting time booked for that presentation, and there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I was going to do the presentation. What was in question were some other important work tasks that I didn’t have scheduled, like submitting my time/expenses before our fiscal year ended yesterday. Thanks to pretty weak in-flight internet, I didn’t end up submitting until 9pm when I got home, squeaking in right under the deadline and feeling like a bit of a failure as I did so. That task was my frog for the day, and I probably should have eaten it first.

Ha – sometimes I think we can all relate to this a little bit!

Today, though, I wanted to do things differently. As with most Fridays, I was working from home. While I’m excellent about getting up before dawn for workouts before a day in the office, I am terrible about doing that on a work from home day. I always tell myself that I’ll finish work early and go for a run/hike, or that I’ll go swimming at lunchtime, or even that I’ll go for a walk while on a conference call… but none of those ever happen. Literally – never have I done any of those on a Friday. Sometimes flexibility is a bad thing, because when you know you have a bunch of chances to do something, you never do it!

Most work-from-home Fridays, I set my alarm for 7:45am – giving myself just enough time to change into yoga pants, brush my teeth, make coffee, and get to my desk. But that’s really just a worst-case scenario; I rarely end up sleeping that late, and usually wake up around 5:30. Today I slept a little bit later, until 6:15am, but I was still awake well before I needed to start work. I almost started thinking about the possibilities for what to do with that time, but I knew I needed to “eat the frog”.

Since I have such a dismal track record of exercising on Fridays, I had already decided that my “frog” for the day was going to be my workout. So I quickly booked a 6:45am pilates class in Boulder, washed up and pulled on some gym clothes, and headed out the door. By the time I started work, I felt fantastic having gotten that (tough) workout done, when I knew that usually I would procrastinate and never get around to exercising on Fridays at all. I was in a great mood all day, and I think it carried through to my productivity in other tasks as well. Win one for the July challenge!

I believe this is what is meant by, if you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to look at it very long.

So how else do I plan to “eat the frogs” for the month of July? For starters, I’ve blocked out an hour on my calendar first thing every weekday for me to get my work frogs taken care of. I’m sure it will get scheduled over at times, but I’m going to do my best to protect that time for only the most important things. Sometimes that might indeed be a meeting; other times, some dedicated work time will be the priority. More generally, I think July is going to be the month of saying “no” to some of the unimportant meetings I’m asked to attend, so that I can focus on the work that really matters and makes an impact.

If you’d like to learn more about the “eat the frog” philosophy, I’d highly recommend reading Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. I read it a few years ago and really loved it – it has so many great strategies to help prevent procrastination! The author also wrote a short summary of the basic principles here, but I’d definitely recommend reading the full book. It’s a quick read, and very practical.

Cheers to a July of taking action and eating frogs!


4 thoughts on “July Challenge: Eat the Frog”

    1. I am such a “routine” person – I definitely don’t envy how your schedule changes so much during the year! Good luck 🙂

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