Why you should be eating frogs early

eating frogs

Word count: 747 words

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Have you ever put a raw frog on your menu? I suspected not! Here’s why you should try to eat one every day — and do it first thing in the morning…

I was born organized. In fact, I’m the kind of nut-bar who writes a family meal plan once a week. As a child, I longed to sort our family’s books by size and colour (no one would let me!) Now that I’m the mom, my spice drawer is alphabetized. As well, my hard drive is mostly controlled by an anal-retentive filing system that means I can explain, by phone, to a total stranger how to find just about anything. For example, I frequently start file names with the date expressed like this: 10-07-13. This means the documents automatically sort themselves into chronological order.

But hyper-organization can also be a flaw. For example, I will — happily — spend hours reorganizing my to do lists. I’ll also never forget the time I spent a full day learning a piece of organizational software that I used for less than three months. I can fritter away more time thinking about how to maximize my day than actually doing anything about it.

In recent months, I’ve been in the habit of trying to identify my “frogs” — those important but non-urgent jobs we all prefer to avoid, like, say, non-deadline writing. Then I try to “eat” one every morning. (The idea of important but non-urgent jobs comes from Stephen Covey. The memorable image of “eating frogs” comes from the title of an excellent book by productivity guru Brian Tracy.) Unfortunately, I didn’t always succeed.

Somehow, eating frogs had slipped off my menu. It was time for some self-analysis!

On examination, I realized that until about a month ago I had always started my day with “getting organized.” I’d spend a total of 30 minutes working out what I wanted to accomplish that day and then immediately turn my attention to a checklist of daily “accounting” jobs. These tasks ranged from updating my voicemail, to tracking my website stats to double-checking my bank accounts and thinning my email. All important tasks — but I was doing them in my precious, early-morning hours.

Suddenly, it hit me. I needed a new game plan. SCREETCH<imagine the sound of a car hitting the brakes and then doing an abrupt U-turn>.

So, without further ado, here are the tweaks that have turned me from a writer who worked too hard and who didn’t get nearly enough done, to someone who is working fewer hours and accomplishing more. I can’t guarantee this will change your life, but I’m certain you can adapt these ideas to a system that will work for you.

Step 1: Always celebrate what you have accomplished. At the end of every day, I now write down at least three things I achieved every day — and I keep this list on my hard drive so I can refer to it all the time. Reading it, I always realize that I’ve done a whole lot more than I thought.

Step 2: Always write your “to do” list the day before — not the morning of. I’m slowly trying to move up the time at which I write this list. Currently I tend to do it at 6 pm (or even later!) the day before. I’m now trying to get it done by 4 pm.

Step 3: Do your most important stuff first. Now, instead of beginning with my “accounting” work, I start with my meditation. (I’m at only 10 minutes now, but working my way up to 30 minutes.) Then I spend a pomodoro on back exercises. Somehow, despite having severe back pain, I could never fit in these exercises. Now I’m doing them every single damn day!

Step 4: If your first task wasn’t a writing frog, eat one now! After the meditation and back exercises, I spend another pomodoro eating a frog (which, of course I’d identified the day before.) When I wrote my popular book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, I always wrote first thing every morning; I can honestly say I would never have finished it otherwise. If you’re writing something important, make that your frog and do it early in the day before clients start phoning.

NB: I generally eat my frog well before 9 am and certainly before a shower or breakfast.

Step 5: Get on with the rest of your day. Finally, with the frog under my belt, I switch to the job that used to be number 1 — my mindless “accounting” work.

Thus, I begin my day — already having accomplished a lot.

Posted July 13th, 2010 in Power Writing

  • May

    Here I swoop in for a stealthy late comment. I didn’t realize that you practiced meditation! I enjoy finding that another writer is also a meditator.
    Would it be all right of me to ask what style or form of meditation you prefer?

    • Well, I must confess that I’m not a terribly diligent student of meditation. Ironically, it seems that when I most need it — when I’m working way too hard or am experiencing way too much stress — I have the LEAST amount of time for it. Once again, I’m needing to readjust my schedule and add it back into my first-morning tasks. When I DO practice it, however, I use mindfulness meditation. I find it makes a big difference to my life. What kind of meditation to you practice?

      • May

        Apologies for the untimely response.

        I also practice mindfulness meditation! I fully sympathize with your difficulty finding time for it. I took years to truly understand how to meditate and then learn how to integrate it into my daily life. I may have a half hour or so of meditation in the middle of the day, but more often I take miniature “meditation breaks.” Merely five minutes or so to myself, and it makes a tremendous difference. Sometimes I feel like I can’t bear writing until I’ve meditated briefly; fifteen minutes later, I find I’m looking forward to it.

        If you’re interested, I’d like to recommend a book. Meditation Made Easy, by Dr. Lorin Roche. His website, http://www.lorinroche.com, contains information about his books and is also a fine resource in itself.

        • Yes, I often use the 5-minute strategy, too. You are right. It is so worthwhile.

          I’ll have a look at Lorin Roche’s site. I’ve also heard about a book called Falling Into Easy by Dee Willock that sounds good.

  • I’m rather busy procrastinating at the moment, so don’t have time to find a more appropriate place to drop a comment about your delightful website in general. Reading the titles under “Best of”, just the titles themselves, was the highlight of my day and a worthy lesson. Thank you.

  • Rajesh

    I read the similar article by some other author…but this is more descriptive and useful…

    I thank the author for providing us so much of useful inputs,

  • Nadia Shireen Siddiqi

    I really wanted to know what the nutritional benefits of eating live frogs are. I’m guessing the meat is fresh and there’s no blood to drain out, more protein than chicken(?)… But as a wannabe published writer your tips on organized writing look pretty good.

    • I don’t think it’s so much about nutrition as it is about getting something done. I’d put it in the same category as having a cold shower in the morning, something I’ve never been able to do….