The writer Mark Twain once famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
The ‘frog’ is that one thing you have on your to-do list that you have absolutely no motivation or inclination to do and that you’re putting off because it’s hard, uninspiring, no fun or just a plain pain to accomplish. Eating the frog means that if you do it first and get it out of the way, you’ll know that the worst thing you have to face throughout your day is over. You can, theoretically sail through the rest of the day with both momentum and a sense of accomplishment, right from the start.
We all have ‘frogs’ to eat every day. There are books, papers, lectures and un-ending advice on how to be efficient with your time, in order to conquer your to-do list and reach the larger goals that are attached to it.
There have been days when I look at my ‘frog’ and just can’t imagine ingesting it. Instead, I get rid of all the little things that are easiest to accomplish and clear my plate for the big juicy entree. But I’ve found that at the end of the day, I have less of an appetite for taking on a daunting task and often let my ‘frog’ go un-eaten. This means, however, that the next day I’ll have two frogs to eat.
I suppose that how you get through your list of must-dos each and every day is personal preference. And, if you have a system that works for you and makes the use of your time both efficient and effective, hooray! For, at the end of the day, if you have a blank slate and the freedom to begin again, then don’t stop or listen to any other advice. You do you!
But for those of us who just can’t seem to face the frog, I say, eat if for breakfast. I’ve learned that I need to eat the frog first thing in the morning or it nags at me. I can’t get the image of it out of my mind. It’s like the little creature is sitting on my shoulder all day long. There’s nothing like overcoming your biggest hesitation while you’re fresh. On a deeper level, there’s nothing like starting your day knowing you’ve faced fear and hesitation with accomplishment and strength of purpose.
What really happens when you don’t eat the frog is that you tend to experience a sense of failure and regret. Every time you avoid a feared or unpleasant situation, your anxiety can grow. And we know, the only way to decrease anxiety is to gain mastery of a situation through practice, practice and more practice. You know the joke about Carnegie Hall – when asked how to get there, the answer is, “practice!”
Eating the frog takes practice. If you do it every morning, it may be unpleasant for a while but will start to feel less so as you continue this practice. Does this mean you’ll have to just accept the fact that your morning – every morning – will be unpleasant? Not at all. Think about how many things you’ve done that started out with a sense of fear and trepidation and ended up with feeling joy, elation and success. Studying for a test or preparing for an important meeting, for example, are a few of these. And the more you do it, the easier and less scary they become.
Getting rid of the hard stuff first is hard, at first. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. So eat the frog and before you know it, you’ll love the taste of success that comes along with it.