Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eating Frogs: A Guide to Overcoming Procrastination

Are you a procrastinator? Most of us occasionally put off tasks we don’t want to do. We know the task should be done, but we conveniently ignore it and tell ourselves we’ll get to it later. We ignore it for a variety of reasons: because it is a challenging task, because it is a large task and too time consuming, because we lack motivation to complete the project, because we have other tasks we would rather do first.

For writers this task may be completing an article you’ve promised your editor but you got bogged down in research, completing a difficult book proposal that you need to submit with a query, making yet another round of changes to a manuscript that you thought was finally done, or answering emails that have stagnated in your inbox. If you work from home, it might be a writing project you want to finish but your thoughts keep tracking toward the stack of dirty dishes on your kitchen counter.

We promise ourselves we will do the task…as soon as we get caught up.

Well, according to Brian Tracy, we will NEVER get caught up. We will always have a stack of books and magazines we intend to read, new writing projects we want to get started on, housework to do, aging projects that we need to complete, etc., etc.. Our slate will never, ever be completely clear.

Tracy, a professional speaker and consultant in the field of personal and professional development, is the author of Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

The book’s title is based on this quote from Mark Twain:

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

Tracy points out that our frog is our largest and sometimes most important task—the one we are most likely to procrastinate on if we fail to tackle it. Instead, we often focus on smaller, easier tasks that steal our time and don’t move us forward toward our goals. Tracy says that learning to eat our frogs will have a positive impact on our lives and our achievements. He writes:

You can get control of your time and your life only by changing the way you think, work, and deal with the never-ending river of responsibilities that flows over you each day.

And to do this, we must eat our frog. Here is Tracy’s first rule of frog eating:

If you have to eat two frogs, 
eat the ugliest one first.

If you have an important project or task that you keep working around and have avoided completing it to do other less important things, that is your frog.

To identify your frogs and begin to change your work habits in a positive way, Tracy defines 21 specific steps to help increase your overall level of productivity, from setting the table for success to approaching every task single handedly. He tells us how to think on paper by clarifying and writing down our goals, how to be selective of the tasks we do, how to focus on key areas, how to leverage our talents, identify our constraints, and several others tips. He writes:

By concentrating single-mindedly on your most important task, you can reduce the time required to complete it by 50 percent or more. It has been estimated that the tendency to start and stop a task—to pick it up, put it down, and come back to it—can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500 percent. Each time you return to the task, you have to familiarize yourself with where you were when you stopped and what you still have to do. You have to overcome inertia and get yourself going again. You have to develop momentum and get into a productive work rhythm.

Eat That Frog! Is a fun read with practical advice on how to structure your work to increase productivity while balancing it with your personal life and other activities.

Oh…by the way, here is Tracy’s second rule of frog eating:

If you have to eat a live frog at all, 
it doesn't pay to sit and look at it for very long.

Salt and pepper anyone?


Brooklyn Ann said...

Great post!

Mark Twain was awesome. Some days I have trouble getting moving...but then I drink a red bull. :)

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thank you for your comment Brooklyn Ann. I also love Mark Twin's work. Thanks for visiting Writing North Idaho!