Why you should do your worst task first today.

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

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I came across this Mark Twain quote last weekend and it struck a chord. One of the habits I have had to overcome (okay, I’m still working on it!) is procrastination through productivity. I’m mean really, nobody wants to eat that frog first thing in the morning, right?

Yesterday morning, I got to work at 7 am. I am not normally the earliest-arriver at my office. My philosophy is to be fully present and to work really hard while I’m at work – no coffee breaks, not too much chatter, focus on the work. That allows me to preserve time at home to be with my family and to have other interests. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but that break between work and home is important to keeping us motivated and fresh.

Yesterday was different. I had a few tasks that required my undivided attention at work and it’s summer. For one more week there are no busses, no evening meetings, no after school activities. Home felt cared-for.

So I went in – yawn – early, to eat my frog.

When you’re putting off that big project by doing a million little things, sending emails, filling, organizing your office instead of tackling that one big unpleasant task you need to focus on? That’s productive. But it’s still procrastination.

Here’s what usually happens. I finally decide to deal with whatever I’m putting off. I make time, I make myself do it, and when I settle in, I realize one of two things: 1) I’ve waited so long to examine the task that there’s something I’m missing and now it’s too late to get it/do a good job (this can sometimes result in a 9pm trip to the hardware store) or 2) It turns out that it’s much simpler than I had built up in my mind.

Lucky for me, yesterday’s task was simpler than I expected and I ended up having an hour to work, uninterrupted, on other projects. I felt centered and focused for the rest of the day which made me less stressed and more able to go with the flow of the day.

In our busy world, it’s easy to feel like our time and attention are constantly divided. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to structure your day and your time, how to disconnect, and how to focus. When we’re able to incorporate some of these skills into our planning, it can help us focus on what really matters.

Like frogs.

 

 

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