Day 15 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Eat That Frog

This is a really fantastic tip, perhaps the best out of all 28 I’ve chosen. I’m going to quote Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less here because she just says it so well. I might even print this quote and hang it on my wall:

I read a book a few years ago that totally changed the way I approached my daily task list.   It was called Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done by Brian Tracy.  It got its name from a quote by Mark Twain, who famously once said something to the effect of “if you eat a frog for breakfast, chances are that will be the worst thing you have to do all day.”  The point of the quote—and the book—was that if you start your day by tackling your hardest but most important tasks, even if you don’t do that much for the rest of the day, you will still have accomplished a lot.

Life moves fast and it is really, really easy to get sucked into mundane–though essential–tasks of the everyday.  We spend our time putting out fires or escaping into the time-wasting vortex of social media and email.  It all seems so important, so urgent, but before we know it, we’ve spent the whole day reacting to other people rather than proactively reaching our own goals.

My own life changed dramatically when changed the order in which I completed my task list.  Most importantly, I stopped checking email first thing in the morning, and instead focused those first few hours of my day on long-term projects and goals.  As a result, my productivity skyrocketed and I was finally able to start accomplishing the things I really wanted to.

So I’ve been eating that frog. Almost every day. Like Ruth, I was starting my days with mundane but essential tasks, things that took very little brain power but would allow me to cross items off the to-do list. Later in the day, when my brain was fried and I was due for a break, I’d be left with all the hard, unattractive, time-consuming tasks … and inevitably I would put most of them off for another day.

Now I start with the handful of essential tasks that must done early in the day and that I don’t particularly love. Tedious work chores, we’ll say. A bit of email, some social media management, and a load of dishes thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, also, a load of laundry.

Next, I look at my list and see if there is anything that I am dreading doing today but that absolutely must be done by the end of the day. I do that thing, or those things, first. I reward myself between tasks with coffee, a snack, headstands or a game of Tetris on my phone (these are my current rewards. They’ll likely change in summer.). Next up are the small, easy tasks — like returning Facebook messages or making appointments — that I’ve been putting off for days or weeks because, as mentioned in an earlier post, I hate communication. Obviously if I’ve been putting some things off for weeks, I don’t always get through all these.

And then I can choose what to do! I am working on making sure that working out and writing are next on the list, but that’s still to come. Well, the workouts, anyway. The writing is going okay.

Please, if you only take one thing from this experiment of mine, let it be Eat That Frog! This is the winner! (I would say “so far,” but I just feel pretty confident this will win over all. We’ll see.)

Tomorrow, I meditate! Really!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

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