Eat a Frog v Getting Things Done

Nicolas_ChamfortNot getting things done? I’m not a big fan of GTD or other productivity systems.

Despite their good intentions, they seem to take more effort to setup and often an indirect impediment to starting on tasks. Maybe that’s just me.

However, I do have a framework that helps me get started faster and wrap things up that little bit quicker.

Let’s call it: Eating a Frog.

Here’s how it works.

Start early. Very early, if possible.

Actually, the trick is to start the night before, say 15 minutes on a Sunday night (nothing more than that) and get things clear in your mind for the week to come. For me this helps as I can begin to separate what’s critical and what’s optional and avoid getting bogged down in small low-value tasks.

I also find that – don’t ask me how – during the night my mind begins to analyze what’s coming downstream so when I wake up the answer or what I need to do is obvious. It’s as though the idea percolated in the background during the night. Something similar happens when I go jogging.

Why eat a frog for breakfast?

The French writer Nicolas Chamfort (not Mark Twain) recommended that you should start your day by eating a frog.

What he meant was to do that one thing you hate the most first.

For me this works as it forces me to deal with that one annoying task that I’ve been putting off, but keeps interrupting my thoughts, and distracting me from progressing in other areas.

So, I try to start the day with whatever it is however unpleasant that needs to be done. Usually, once I get started, it’s not so bad. It’s the idea of doing it is what drains my energy and eats up my time.

Develop good habits

Plato said that ‘Character is habit long continued.’ I think what he means is that if you develop good habits in time you absorb the essence of the habit and it defines your character.

For that reason, I try to intentionally cultivate good habits.

For example?

When writing, I try to type accurately so I don’t waste energy re-typing and also to develop my powers of concentration. Another?  Not interrupting others when they speak.

The benefit is that I have more time to listen to what’s been said and, armed with this information, can make better decisions. Other examples are to go for a run every other night when I get home.

What’s the real priority?

Reading a biography of Lincoln recently, I noticed that one of his skills was to rise above the minor details (but not pretend they didn’t exist) and keep his attention fixed on the critical issues.

It’s easy to get distracted.

To remedy this, I have created a DO NOW folder in my Outlook. What’s in here has to be done. Other stuff can wait.

Calendars v Lists

A second suggestion is to use Google Calendar to schedule your tasks. Instead of making a list of what needs to be done, schedule them.

This removes them from the list and, at least for me, increases the level of urgency.

When the reminder pops up and says, Reminder: Report in 10 minutes, suddenly I roll up my sleeves and get into ‘doing’ mode.

And, Yes, I know it’s a bit contrived as I‘m entering these tasks but it works. Lists are too static for me and also to easy to ignore.

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