This post was first published on January 13, 2009.
“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” -Mark Twain
My husband is currently reading a classic business tome called Eat That Frog. The basic idea is that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is a cake walk.
So if your least-favorite chore is the laundry, and it’s one of the items on your to-do list today, then tackle it first. That way, you can spend the rest of your day knowing you’ve done the most irritating task.
Sure, there might be some more annoyances or tediousness – the dishes, the cooking, the helping with the homework – but in knowing you’ve accomplished the laundry, you’ve got fuel and motivation to do the less painful items.
I’m working on this in my own life right now. It’s an obvious concept, but it’s rather new to me – so I’m experimenting as I write this.
For me, my frog right now it’s not a chore – it’s simply working out. I love the after-effects of working out, and I even love the adrenaline rush and the glow of sweat once I get started. But that one hump – the actual starting it – is something I simply dread. I’m not sure why.
So I’m doing my best to tackle my frog-eating — the worst task of my day — first thing in the morning. And right now, it’s exercise.
What Not To Do First
It stands to reason that if you should do your least-favorite task first, that means you should avoid doing your most favorite task – or at least your easiest task – first.
We’ve all had those mornings where we start with great intentions of cleaning the house, running errands, balancing our checkbooks, or menu planning – but then we first check our email or see what Al Roker’s up to. Two hours later, and your enthusiasm is gone, along with valuable time you could have used getting stuff done. Somehow, this sets a tone for the rest of the day, and we approach our tasks reluctantly, with a poor attitude, or simply with less passion.
Photo by kbcanon
What To Do Instead
1. First, create something that outlines your tasks for the day.
You can use the Daily Docket, or you can use the back of an old receipt. Whatever works for you, just do something. Fill out a detailed to-do list for your day.
2. Narrow down your list to ten items.
You shouldn’t reasonably expect to do more – though if you find yourself having done ten things, you can simply add more items. By starting with a ten-item checklist, you’re not as daunted, and you feel more accomplished to get seven whole things crossed off in one day. Seven out of ten is more impressive than seven out of 34.
3. Out of those ten things, pick three Most Important Tasks (MITs).
These are the things you really need to do today; those tasks of which accomplishing them means a successful day. Write those separately up top.
4. Out of those three things, pick the worst one.
Do that task first. Make that your frog.
5. Out of your list of ten, pick your favorite or easiest item.
For me, it’s usually checking my email (it’s not my easiest, since I get tons of email, but it’s certainly a task I usually enjoy). Whatever you do, make sure you don’t do that task first. In fact, if you’re daring, don’t do that task until you get all three MITs done. Make doing that task your reward.
So I’m doing this as I go – and so far, it’s working. In fact, I’m slowly starting to enjoy working out more. I’m not sure it’ll ever be my favorite task, but perhaps I’ll eventually go back to starting my day with the dishes.
What’s usually your least-favorite task? Your favorite? How have you experienced the frog-eating theory in your own life?