So I deal with procrastination once in a while. Or a lot. I have been meaning to write this post for the last two weeks. One of my goals during my renewal leave is to form habits where I procrastinate less and produce more. I don’t expect that my life will take a 180 degree turn and I’ll become this super-organized and over-functioning person, but I have missed some opportunities in the past and let some people down because of procrastination. I want less of that in the future.
So I read the book, Eat That Frog!, a few weeks ago. It was an easy book to read. Fun too. I wist I would have read it years ago and applied its principles. I’m not sure if the author came up with anything new in the book, but the genius of the book is its metaphors and simplicity. The gist of the book is this: The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life.
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing eating the frog will be the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day. The “frog” is your biggest, most important task. It is also the task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. Putting off this difficult, but essential task and doing things of lesser importance or easier undertakings means that we will not get around to life’s critical tasks. The author, Brian Tracy, writes: One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.
The book talks about the importance of written and prioritized goals. Continually review the goals and ask the question, which goal, if achieved, will have the greatest impact on my life? Then create a strategy to accomplish that goal. Tracy writes about the importance of working the strategy of the highest priority goal: Do something. Do anything. An average plan vigorously executed is far better than a brilliant plan on which nothing is done.
Here are the main points I took from the book:
- Plan each day in advance. The time invested in planning will return multiple times in productivity — especially because the most important things are getting done.
- Value long-term over the short-term. Tracy notes: Successful people are those who are willing to delay gratification and make sacrifices in the short-term so that they can enjoy far greater rewards in the long-term.
- Delegate what you can. Continually ask, What can I and only I do that if done well will make a real difference?
- Practice “zero-based thinking” by asking the question, If I were not doing this already, knowing what I now know, would I start going it again today?
- Start where you are. Not where you were or where you could have been or where you want to be, but where you are. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
- Take immediate action. Don’t wait. Each critical task is completed by taking a series of next steps. Don’t wait to take the next step. Start now.
- Let technology be your best friend and not your worst enemy. Tracy wrote this book a decade ago. He mentions Blackberries and this new thing called wireless Internet. I’m guessing this wouldn’t be the 17th of 21 chapters if the book were written in today’s world of social media and smart phones. His point is very valid: Resolve today to create zones of silence during your day-to-day activities.
- Schedule large blocks of time. Use those chunks of time, without distraction, to complete the important tasks with the most significant long-term consequences.
Eat That Frog! is a wonderful little book for procrastinators like me. It would also be a great book for an efficient person seeking to become even more productive.