Don’t worry, it’s not another Disney princess post. I was talking with a friend recently about her new job as a manager. She’s moved from running the shop floor (as it were) to running the shop (as it were, she doesn’t actually work in a shop, but if I told you what she does I’d have to kill you). Whilst there’s a lot she enjoys about the new responsibility there’s one thing she doesn’t like. She now finds herself sat behind a computer with a never ending to-do list. The satisfying feeling of walking away from her shift with everything she needed to do having been done, now alludes my friend Jo, let’s call her Jo as that is her name.

Jo is good at being organised and practical. I’m not, and she enjoys kicking my butt (or house, or life) into shape when I need it. When I was pregnant she helped me sort the entire contents of my home, clear out stuff I didn’t need, and get what was left organised. I know – amazing! Don’t we all need a friend who’ll come and hold our hand through the things we aren’t great at, sometimes? Anyway while Jo is a do-er and an organised one, she found herself living a working life I remember well, and that I know is true for many of you too. It looks like this: never-ending to-do lists, you can stay late at the office, then come in early, and still not complete everything on the list. So here’s the small piece of gruesome magic that will change this. You have to eat the frog first. Look at the almighty to-do list and identify the thing you would rather not have to do, the thing that will probably just transfer to the next day’s list until you absolutely have to do it. That’s the live frog on your plate. Mmm yum. And no matter what you eat as a starter, it’s likely to stick in your throat while the frog is sat there looking at you. The dread might not be as conscious when the frog is a phone call you have to make, but it might be. Tackle the frog and eating up the rest of that plate will be a breeze!

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.

Mark Twain

I gave Jo this tip and she’s been using it all week. Did it work? Yes and then some! She no longer felt overwhelmed by her workload, she felt proud of what she’d done and knew that what remained wasn’t within her control. Having eaten her frogs first, she was more in control and less stressed. One key thing she realised was that she’d been making her list longer as a way of avoiding the icky tasks, creating tasks that she could tell herself were important but were actually just procrastination. I know that game! So on Friday night she left work grown in confidence, after having eaten so many frogs, her list for Monday morning is tiny and her weekend is anxiety free. Delicious. Now that is worth developing a frog-eating habit for.

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THE ACTION

Write out your to-do list whether it’s for work or any area of your life.

Identify the thing you least want to do, but know you will have to do, at some point.

Commit to doing that thing BEFORE any of the others. Need help? Tell someone your plan, how and when you are going to do it, and ask them to hold you accountable in a way that feels good for you.

Final step: acknowledge yourself when you’ve done it, whether it was as difficult as you expected or not, you overcame the temptation to succumb to procrastination. And reflect how easy the other tasks on your list became.

Repeat.

*Disclaimer. I am not a frog eating expert, metaphorical or real. I teach what I most need to learn. I did not invent the frog eating metaphor. Nor did Mark Twain. 

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