18 Dec Eat the frog
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
There is a famous quotation often attributed to Mark Twain (although some maintain that he never said it) that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day.
The point being made is that your ‘frog’ is your most important task or most pressing decision and also the one thing about which you are most likely to procrastinate and to put off doing.
We all procrastinate, don’t we? Whether it is eating that frog – completing a task you have been putting off due to not looking forward to doing it – or making a decision about something which you know will have an impact on your life going forwards, it seems that we are somehow hard-wired to do this.
Which in fact, as it turns out, we are. The saying “Don’t put off until tomorrow that which you can do today” dates from around 800 BC!
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”
– Olin Miller (author)
Experts in the field define procrastination as ‘the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we will suffer as a result.’
When you read it in black and white like that it makes you think, “Why would anyone put themselves through that?”, doesn’t it?
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
To make matters worse, actually getting on and DOING whatever it is we are procrastinating about, in most cases makes us feel less stressed than when we were putting it off. NOT doing something you know you have to do leads to, at best, low-level stress and anxiety. Research has shown that once we make a start on the task, or make the decision, our stress levels pretty much immediately reduce.
In financial planning terms we sometimes talk about how spending too much or getting into unnecessary debt today is robbing your future self both of choices and of actual wealth.
In decision-making terms, putting off an important task today is robbing your future self of benefitting from the consequences of you taking action now.
The problem is that, thanks to evolution, our brains are programmed to value immediate rewards over long term ones (this no doubt explains my shoe-buying habit).
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
– Pablo Picasso
There are dozens of self-help books out there that will provide a huge number of ways and means of getting things done. In terms of setting up an organisational structure for work and/or personal tasks the best I have come across is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (it’s required reading for everyone at Bloomsbury).
For a simple way to get into the habit of approaching each day to give you the best chance of beating procrastination, I am a big fan of The Ivy Lee Method.
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
– Karen Lamb (author)
Whatever it is that is holding you back from completing that task, or making that decision, rest assured that eating that frog is going to make you feel a whole lot better than putting it off does.
“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte