A while back (or むかしむかし for those of you following along in Japan), I wrote about one of my all-time favorite quotes and how I believe it applies to productivity in the office:
“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.” – Mark Twain
And at the time of my original article, I wrote: “From a business perspective, this great quote really hits home. Look at your to-do list and find the item you’ve been dreading most. Perhaps it’s difficult, confusing, or you have just been avoiding it. That’s your frog. Do it. Get that task done (or if it’s a huge project, get it started). Once you eat that frog, the rest of your day will be looking good. You’ll feel great too; relieved that you finally got around to that task that’s been a chip on your shoulder.”
To this day, I continue to practice the frog-elimination* strategy, and I continue to experience the sense of relief after completing dreaded tasks. However, I started to experience what I’ve coined as to-do list dodge ball. This is the act of adding lots of stuff to your to-do list, doing a lot of stuff, and repeating this over and over again – without ever tackling the frogs. The frogs sit around and carry over from one list to the next.
If this happens, I first need to evaluate whether I really need to do the task. Sometimes, something grows old and the ROI I once thought it brought to the workplace diminishes. Other times I really do need to complete the task.
I came across a recent article that discussed scheduling time your Outlook/calendar for work on these types of projects. You essentially force your self to work on the frogs. And, to better enhance your chance of completion, you make it into a meeting with yourself. You silence the phone, put the office line on DND, close email, and dig in.
It’s been about a week since I’ve been doing this in my work and home life and I can tell you that the frogs are disappearing quickly and life is feeling pretty good.
*No actual frogs are harmed as part of my work routine.