If you are anything like me, you constantly fight the bad habit of scrolling through social media and emails first thing in the morning. I like starting my workday with a sense of feeling up-to-date; the downside, of course, is that my email can dictate what I accomplish for the day as opposed to my prioritized to-do list….and there is a hack for that!
I recently did a training for a group of senior leaders who wanted to generate some ideas and brainstorming about how they, as a group, could set some norms around productivity. They have the mindset that if everyone followed some of the same guidelines, it would be a whole lot easier for everyone. For example, they were considering having so called “quiet periods” where emailing each other and setting meetings were off limits so that they could all chip away at their to-do lists and accomplish some of their bigger projects.
Before the training, I did some more reading to help them along with their brainstorming. I landed on the book Eat That Frog!: Twenty-one Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracey.
The title comes from the brilliant Mark Twain who (may or may not have) said “If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first.”
Tracey encourages readers to stop multi-tasking and stop spending time on fruitless tasks (even if they are ticks off of a to-do list). What he encourages is a mindfulness, although he doesn’t call it that, about how we spend our time, what we wish to accomplish, and why.
The main premise is built on the Eisenhower method, which is also similar to a favorite from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Consider all that you have to get done and then put each item into one of the following categories:
Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
Things you want to do and actually need to do.
Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
Your “frog” is in the first category. It is the challenging task, it is the one that can be hard to be motivated to do, it is the one that you desperately want to put off.
Once you know what your “frog” is…the next step is to take action. Like many other productivity experts, Tracey suggests breaking down the “frog” task into multiple small “chunks” of work. He suggests that the endorphin rush you get from ticking off your to-do list is a motivator in and of itself (he does not cite any evidence for his claim). I can’t fight that notion that once the big, ugly task is over, the rest of the day can feel like a cakewalk!
As a fun reminder to tackle their frogs, I got everyone in the training these little froggies to keep at their desk.
What are some of YOUR favorite productivity hacks?