Recently I was having a conversation with a colleague, and the topic of procrastination came up. At one point of our dialogue, I used the phrase, “Eat the frog” as a way to battle procrastination. My colleague was unfamiliar with the term, so I explained. Eat the frog is the idea that if you were given the task that you had to eat a live frog, it’s better to just do it and get it over with. If you wait to eat the frog, then all day the task will loom over you. But if you do it first, then it’s done, and you don’t have to think about it anymore. This idea originated from Mark Twain, who stated, “Eat a live frog first in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
I learned of this advice by Mr. Twain a few years ago and let me tell you, it was life-changing. You see, I used to be the Queen of Procrastination. In my professional and personal life, I delayed tasks that I didn’t want to do as long as I could. I met deadlines, but it was usually by the skin of my teeth. Whether it was a bill to be paid, or a report I had to turn in, or a dentist appointment I had to schedule before my insurance ran out, the “Have-To-Do” tasks never seemed to take priority. I welcomed outside interruptions and allowed other trivial, less than urgent jobs to take precedence. As I said, I always got them done. However, it was at a cost. The price for procrastinating was peace of mind. There were also hidden charges such as stress, self-doubt, and impatience.
I now realize that procrastination was another weapon that The Judge uses. Those hidden charges of stress, self-doubt, and impatience, compounded with the up-front cost of reduced peace of mind, allows The Judge to control me. When I tried to do a job earlier than I needed to, The Judge would block me. He convinced me that waiting to the last minute was the way to go. The Judge would say, “That’s going to be hard. You don’t want to do that now. You have time. Do it tomorrow.”
Do it tomorrow. That is a masterful manipulation. Do it tomorrow implies that I can’t handle it today. Today I am not strong enough, or smart enough, or brave enough to handle the task that I don’t want to do, but has to be done. Do it tomorrow suggests that somehow tomorrow I will have what it takes, but today I don’t. Do it tomorrow bends the truth that tomorrow a live frog will taste better and be easier to eat, but today I won’t even be able to lift the fork.
When I decided to use the Eat the Frog method, I found a new way to fight The Judge and strengthen The Witness at the same time. When I made the decision to do my Eat the Frog tasks, a change began. The only way I could eat the frog was to stop listening to The Judge. I had to listen to The Witness.
At first, The Witness was pretty weak. It had been neglected for so long, that when I did call for help, it didn’t know what to do. Do it tomorrow had been the modus operandi. Somehow, though, The Witness managed to speak these words that I still use today, “What would Tomorrow Andi be happy you did today?”
Those words helped me to pick up the fork and eat the frog for the first time. Those words help me to realize that by doing the thing that I don’t want to do, and doing it first, I could fortify The Witness’s defensive tactics. The Witness learned how to battle fear with bravery, doubt with re assuredness, and reluctance with determination. The Witness told me that I DO have what it takes TODAY. The Witness showed me how to combat the fear of the unknown with the relief of a task completed. The Witness acknowledged the power within me to conquer the challenge of the day with confidence.
I must be honest, though. I often let the Eat the Frog method subside. I often allow The Judge to recover some of the battlegrounds he lost. I often forget The Witness and regress to my Do It Tomorrow ways.
The good news though is that when I recognize that this is happening, I recommit myself to remember to Eat the Frog. I scrutinize my tasks for the day more carefully. I listen to The Witness and think about the Tomorrow Andi. I look forward to the challenges that I will accomplish because I will meet them head on instead of resisting. I joyfully anticipate the victory I will feel after I conquer the Judge and crown the Witness.
I encourage you to try the Eat the Frog method too. Your Tomorrow Self will be so happy that you did.