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If You Want Dessert, You First Have To Eat That Frog

Do you have a task that you’ve been procrastinating on, one that gets bigger every day even though you’re trying to ignore it? I usually have a couple of those on my list. These are tasks that I’m dreading for one reason or another: tediousness, refusal to face the truth, fear, shame…

The more I try to push these tasks to the future, the bigger they get, to the point that just resisting them is sapping my energy and blocking my ability to spot and respond to other opportunities.

So it’s time to do something about it.  

Mark Twain, that great philosopher-sage, said “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day will be wonderful.”  This is the premise behind a delightful little book by Brian Tracy, called “Eat That Frog“. This book, which I highly recommend (even if you are not procrastinating on anything at the moment), provides a simple process to blast through procrastination: imagine the yukky task as an ugly frog that you must first eat before you can enjoy doing other things.

I’ve taken to call the tasks I’m procrastinating on my “Ugly Frogs” (UF).  UFs are things that only I can do (what’s left after the delegating and dumping), but I am loathe to get started on for any real or imagined reason. And it’s usually the latter. By identifying the UF, I can then go through a process to help me break it down into bite-sized pieces so that I swallow the whole darn thing…and therefore get it off my plate.

I’m currently implementing this idea in my weekly planning by asking myself the following questions:

1. What is an important task that I’m procrastinating on which is draining my energy and stopping me from moving forward? (This task must be on a critical path for my most important priority at the moment)

2. How can I break this task down into three to five sub-tasks that take between 30 minutes to no more than two hours each to complete? (An ugly frog is easier to swallow if I first cut it up into smaller pieces)

3. On what days this week will I accomplish each one of those tasks? (Schedule the day, and if possible, the time)

4. With whom shall I share this commitment to help me be accountable? (I find an accountability buddy to be invaluable in making sure I finish my plate)

Sometimes you might not get through the whole UF in one week, but can get far enough that there may be one or two sub-tasks left. If so, try to schedule them at the beginning of the following week so that the whole task is done, or if this is not possible, make sure you schedule them now so that you complete them as soon as possible.  Or maybe my UF is too big, like two frogs stuck together. Then the idea is to separate the tasks to make them more manageable. With practice you will learn what are reasonable task sizes and timelines for you, depending on your workload.

Even with this preparation, the actual eating of the Ugly Frog can still be distasteful, stressful, even nauseating.  I’ve had tasks that needed to be done that would take someone else maybe 20 minutes or so, but take me two hours because it feels like I’m moving through cold molasses. Hang in there, gut it out. You know that it will be over in at most two hours. This is where the accountability buddy is so valuable, for encouragement or simply someone to whine to…but make sure that your buddy won’t let you off the hook!

Brian Tracy explains more thoroughly this process of breaking through procrastination. Don’t delay, get it now, read it now and do it now.

Don’t stare too long at that Ugly Frog. Just pick up your knife and your fork and get at it, so you can move on to the dessert!

For more information

Read: “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy  Amazon.com link (no affiliate): http://www.amazon.com/Eat-That-Frog-Great-Procrastinating/dp/1576754227

Photo credit: Photo by wahoowins on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-ND 2.0

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