The Value of Doing the Worst Thing First
Why you should eat a frog first thing in the morning to stop procrastinating.
Have you had your frog this morning? No, I haven’t completely lost my mind. Hang with me for a moment.
Asking if you’ve had a frog probably sounds a little insane, unless you are someone who likes to have frogs for breakfast.
Hey, it’s possible. Maybe.
Let’s try another question.
Are you buried in to-dos today? It’s the weekend, but for many of us, the weekend seldom equates to rest. There’s often just as much, if not more, to do on the weekends.
When you’re coping with illness, those to-do lists feel endless. Try as you may, you never seem to work through half of them. In fact, the weekend may end with hardly one thing crossed off the dreaded list.
How are you to cope? The lesson today is about eating (proverbial) frogs.Start Today!
The Reason for Frogs
To put your mind at ease as to my sanity, here’s why we’re talking about frogs today. It’s a lesson about how to stop procrastinating.
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”
While he was a little eccentric, Twain wasn’t any crazier than I am. His point had nothing to do with eating literal frogs.
Our figurative frogs are those things we put off doing, the things we have to do but don’t want to.
Coping with chronic illness sometimes means those frogs are taking a shower or washing the dishes. Yes, even those insignificant things can be as repulsive as eating a frog. Learning to face them can help us stop procrastinating.
Stop Procrastinating and Eat the Frog
Why should you eat your frogs “first thing in the morning?” The concise answer is to get them done.
Once you’ve eaten a frog, nothing else in your entire day will be as difficult.
As spoonies, our worst things may revolve around parts of our treatment. It may be a medicine or shot we need to take or going to a therapy appointment. Perhaps it’s getting an appropriate amount of exercise or drinking a healthy smoothie.
Yes, I know kale and spinach are good for me, but I struggle to drink green things. I know it’s a mindset, but it’s a task I fight every time.
By doing your worst task first each day, the rest of your day will have easier trials.
Conquering your worst mountain should bolster you to keep going.
As bad as eating a frog would be, there are mornings you have two of them. Two equally unpleasant tasks stand before you, and you have no desire to do either.
What do you do in that case?
Mark Twain doesn’t leave us hanging. His quote continues, “If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Rarely are things equal. You’ll always dread one activity more than the next or find it harder to accomplish. To stop procrastinating, start with that mountain and conquer it first.
Many times, our frogs greet us in the morning because we failed to eat them the day before. For whatever reason, we put off the inevitable, and today it’s even less appetizing.
For years, I was guilty of doing this in my professional life. I used to organize my desk into three boxes.
- Box 1: Things to do today
- Box 2: Things to do soon
- Box 3: Things with no deadline
I thought I was saving time by having three piles. I almost always finished box one by the end of each day. The second box received some attention each day, even if only to move items to box one for the following day.
At other times, the passing of a few days revealed I could downgrade an item from stack two to three.
I often put things in pile two to put off what I didn’t want to do. Those jobs would stay there until an approaching deadline required a transfer to pile one.
The third box existed as an eternal source of stress. As it invariably grew in size, seeing it each morning made my heart race. There were weeks of work in that pile, and the thought of trying to do it all overwhelmed me.
Every December, I did a thorough office cleaning. Things in the business slowed down, and I could go days without answering the phone or seeing a client.
I used my precious downtime to reset my office for the coming year. One of my year-end projects was always to deal with box three. Addressing those frogs taught me a valuable lesson to stop procrastinating.
Also Read: You Don’t Fail Until You Stop Trying To Be Better
Here’s the funny thing. As a waded through those mountains of paper at the end of the year, I seldom found anything that required my attention. The stack that produced constant anxiety throughout the year usually went in its entirety to the shredder.
I finally woke up and realized what I was doing to myself. It was crazy for me to cause stress by putting off tasks I didn’t want to do. I made a change that day.
Eating Frogs Leaves Less of Them
I now work from two piles. Pile one, the things I don’t want to do but will do first. Two, everything else.
The change to my day was undeniable. My stress level dropped considerably, and I was able to stop procrastinating.
I was still having to deal with troublesome people and mundane tasks, but by getting those burdensome things completed first thing, the rest of my day went much smoother. Much of my apprehension for going to work each day also disappeared.
This change in mindset taught me four valuable “frog” lessons I then applied to the rest of my life.
1. Schedule Your Frog
You have a million things you need to do. Besides your job, you have a home, family, and friends calling for your attention. Your health care adds additional time requirements.
The first change is to make yourself accountable. Schedule those tasks you don’t want to do just like you would schedule any other appointment. Put it on your calendar and set a reminder.
Be sure to schedule it early in the day so you can get it over with and stop dreading it.
When the time comes, do the task. No grumbling allowed. Do it and move on.
2. Prepare Your Frog
You can take a lot of stress out of your morning by planning your day the night before.
Taking just 10-15 minutes at night to plan the following day means you can wake up without having to think about what you need to do. You have a plan and a schedule to help you stop procrastinating.
I find it helpful to plan my lunches and outfits at night. I’m not a morning person, so the fewer things I have to do in the morning the better. Ironing clothes and preparing meals before bed gives you a less hurried morning.
With your healthcare, use a pill minder so you don’t have to remember if you took your medications. Put out exercise clothes or prepare your doctor bag in advance so there’s less to do the next day.
3. Discard Your Frog
Dozens of tasks call for your attention every day. Lessen the distractions by choosing to ignore some of them. Much like my third pile, not every frog deserves your attention.
Not every decision is life altering.
Some find it helpful to make consistent decisions by the day of the week. For instance, many busy moms have a weekly schedule for meals: Monday is spaghetti, Friday is pizza, etc.
Mark Zuckerberg made an interesting comment about unnecessary decisions in this interview from 2014. The interviewer asked why he was so often seen wearing the same looking t-shirt or hoodie. His response?
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,” he said.
Zuckerberg felt deciding what to wear was not a worthwhile use of his mental energy.
Instead, he bought multiples of the same items. With a closet filled with only one color shirt or hoodie, you don’t have to decide what to put on.
This may be an extreme example, but there are likely little decisions in your life you can stop making. Take some time to think about it.
4. Ignore Other Frogs
How many social media alerts have pinged in the last few minutes? As soon as you finish reading this post, go turn off all of those notifications.
Stopping an activity every 5-10 minutes to read updates is only causing you more stress.
I’m serious. Go turn them off. You’ll thank me later.
This doesn’t mean you should give up social media entirely. It’s fun to see what others are doing and to interact with your friends and followers.
The key is to set limits. Just like you wouldn’t let a real frog hop everywhere in your house, set boundaries for social media.
Setting a timer will help. Set an alarm on your phone for 30-60 minutes. When the timer goes off, so does social media.
Get back to what’s important and ignore social media until your next scheduled break.
Tackle Your Frogs
Rooting out all the frogs in your life to stop procrastinating is an ongoing process. Don’t get discouraged if you frequently slip backwards. No course to self-improvement is always in forward motion.
What’s important is you keep working on it.
Every time you eat your frog, give yourself the luxury of celebrating. Pat yourself on the back or give yourself a high-five. Hopefully, devouring that frog means the worst part of your day is now over.
Remember how great it feels to move forward with the dreaded thing behind you. Remind yourself of that feeling with the next temptation to procrastinate.
Until next time… Keep fighting.