Each morning during the week, after morning coffee together, Amy says, “Ok, time to go eat my frogs.” She’s usually told me about the one or two or three frogs she has for the day, and her statement is a rhythmic part of our morning.
Yesterday, I asked her where that phrase came from. She pointed me at Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, a productivity book by Brian Tracey that she read a few years ago. (Note, a blog reader sourced the original quote to Mark Twain.)
While I haven’t read the book, we are using the phrase a little differently than the motivating language on the Amazon book website.
It’s time to stop procrastinating and get more of the important things done! After all, successful people don’t try to do everything. They focus on their most important tasks and get those done. They eat their frogs.
There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day. For Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life.
Stop procrastinating is correct, but it’s mostly aimed at a task that is difficult for some reason. And, what is difficult for Amy is different than what is difficult for me, and vice versa.
Between Monday and Friday, my work as a VC includes an endless number of difficult things. I say no all day long. I give people news or feedback they don’t want to hear. I deal with conflict, angry and frustrated people, and strange situations that cause emotional pain. Often the pain is from exogenous factors that dramatically influence things, but which we have no control over.
And yes, Something New Is Fucked Up In My World Every Day. I can’t predict when it will show up, but it’s often late enough in the day that I can’t solve it before I stop working. And many of these things extend over many days and have numerous frogs contained within them.
I used to procrastinate on things I didn’t want to deal with. In my 20s and 30s, I’d carry them around with me, waiting for the right time to address them. By the time I hit my 40s, I had stopped doing this with most things and just dealt with whatever came up head-on. When I found myself procrastinating on something difficult, I realized I was avoidant, often passive avoidant, and would go deeper on why I was procrastinating which often helped me understand the thing better. Occasionally, I’d continue to be avoidant, sometimes unconsciously, but the demons eventually showed up, and I had to embrace the lessons of Milarepa to get rid of them.
I still procrastinate, but it’s on things that either don’t have a deadline or things that I’m looking forward to doing. If you’ve written a book with me, you understand this statement well (Ian, I’m thinking of you.)
The frogs? I eat them whenever they show up or first thing in the morning. And, even though I’m a vegetarian, I’ve come to get satisfaction from eating my virtual frogs. So that’s another life lesson from Amy.