Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

End your day by eating a frog

Earlier this year I read the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (no affiliate link. Just want you to see the book). If you haven’t read it, it’s essentially a productivity book, designed to give skills to combat procrastination, and the basic premise is that you do the least desirable task first. With that out of the way, you’ll pave the road to tackle other projects, plus you’ll feel good that you got the frog out of the way. It’s a great concept and makes total sense.

Please don’t eat Kermit.

Except I don’t really adhere to it. In fact, I do just the opposite. I leave the frog for the last part of the day. Because I don’t really want to start my day doing something I hate. I’d rather do that right before I go to bed, making it the last thing I cross off my list, because that way I can rest easy knowing that I did it. I did the thing I didn’t want to do (usually this involves laundry in some way). Even if it took me all day to get around to it.

I do have my reasons for why I do it this way. Interested to hear them? I thought so:

  1. Crossing small tasks off my list gives me motivation to keep going. Like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball encouraging people to pay off debts smallest to largest, my productivity snowball starts with checking off something small and moving on to something big. Seeing the little, easier and more pleasant to do items like sending an email or text or putting dinner in the slow cooker getting checked off makes my to-do list seem smaller and more manageable. And like people who eliminate their consumer debt and are proud to have only a mortgage, having only the frog to deal with at the end of the day is very satisfying
  2. Eliminating more pleasant tasks means that I’m not distracted when I’m working on a big one. If I’m working on editing my fiction book or brainstorming for an eBook, my mind is clearer when I’m not pestering myself about running to buy toothpaste or renewing a library book. Having those out of the way means I can focus more on what’s important and I can devote more uninterrupted time to that task. The frog is going to need a lot of attention and I want to have it. Note: working on my books is not unpleasant. It’s rather pleasant, in fact. It’s so pleasant that I want it at the end of my day. Like a margarita. 
  3. It’s easy to postpone the smaller, more fun tasks. Especially if they’re extremely mundane. Yes, it’s crucial to my family’s finances that I work on my mentoring program and my books. We need the money. But it’s also just as important that I schedule my dog’s vet appointment or buy milk or put gas in my car. Saying “it can wait one more day” means that it’ll get postponed way more than that, until it’s really a dire circumstance (no milk in my house is a major catastrophe). If I take care of it immediately, I prevent a disaster which might wind up costing more time, leaving less time to deal with the frog.
  4. It helps me prioritize. This probably makes no sense because you would think that your priority would be the least desirable task just to get it done. My first grader is even learning that as part of her healthy habits curriculum at school. But for me, I work in reverse. I tend to make my highest priority item the last thing I do because that’s when I have the time, focus, and mental capacity to do it. That’s why, when I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, I’m not working on a book or my program. My mind isn’t sharp enough at that hour of the day to focus as intently as I need so I use that time to clear space in my day.

I know that lots of people will disagree with me. That’s okay. We all have our tools for productivity and in my opinion, it doesn’t matter when or how you get it done as long as you get shit done and you do it the best you can. Perfection isn’t key here. What matters is that it’s done to your standards and liking; my standards for your laundry folding or housecleaning don’t matter. Did you get it done? Yes? Then good for you!

Because at the end of the day, you have to be okay with what you accomplished. No one else. So eat the frog first or last. Or even save it for the next day. Just eat it.

How about you? Do you deal with the frog first or last?

8 Comments

  1. FF

    I’m a frog near the front person. Your approach makes sense too but I will find a way to just avoid it if I don’t get it done sooner than later. You’re right that the only thing that matters is *that* it gets done, not *when*.
    FF recently posted…What I’ve Been Reading, Week 38My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think a lot of people are like that. It’s just a matter of doing whatever works best for you.

      Reply
  2. Simon @ Modest Money

    I swallow the frog first thing in the morning. Three reasons:
    a) The rest of the day I can drown its awful taste with sweeter and fun tasks.
    b) It clears up my mind and allows me focus on better things the rest of the day.
    c) If I put it off till evening there is a high likelihood that I will postpone it to the next day.
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted…Lending Club Review – Peer to Peer Lending Platform ReviewMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Those are great reasons. They make complete sense and are logical. However, I’ve never been one for logic 🙂

      Reply
  3. shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet

    I’m more like you- if there are a billion little tasks that need to get done, I am not going to be able to concentrate on the big task. I am instead going to be thinking about everything else I have to do. Saving the big things until the “last” allows me to actually concentrate on them.
    For some things, though, I just have to carve out dedicated time. Writing is something I love, but it is hard. And sitting down to do it, especially when there are other things I should be doing, is something I’m not good at. So instead, I have a dedicated time (before critique group every other Sunday) that is for writing. I don’t feel guilty for not getting other things done because this time is scheduled writing time, and if I weren’t writing, honestly, I’d still be sleeping.
    shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet recently posted…Oh, the AssumptionsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Finding a system that works for you is essential. Writing IS hard and is easy to push to the side if you let it. But I’m glad you found a way around it!

      Reply
  4. FI Pilgrim

    I’m like you– I probably SHOULD eat the frog first, but I feel much more productive knocking out the little things to start the day. Emails, quick chats, phone calls. When I leave the little things for later in the day I tend to de-prioritize them, too, since I know they are not quite as important.
    FI Pilgrim recently posted…How To Create A Strategic Plan For Your FinancesMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Hooray for another end of day frog eater!!! It’s nice to find another person who thinks like I do, especially for stuff like this.

      We’re a rare breed.

      Reply

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