If you’ve heard of the famous book, Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, then you will already know what I want to tackle today… Procrastination!
The concept of eating a frog has nothing to do with weird menu choices, and everything to do with ticking the toughest item off your to-do list first thing in the morning. If you can do that, then the rest of your day feels easy breezy in comparison – or so the theory goes.
I think that autumn is an especially frog-flavoured time of year. Parents everywhere are squirrelling money away for Christmas, and us self-employed people are all starting to receive begging letters from our accountant to submit our tax return info this side of the festivities.
Then there is that post-summer fogginess that many of us tend to feel. September and October are usually about getting back into the swing of life and work after holidays, while simultaneously fighting off the barrage of seasonal germs heading our way.
So how do we handle it all without the to-do list bringing us down?
I think the answer is to deal with your ‘frog’ one piece at a time, and without beating yourself up over the process.
Let’s take that good old seasonal favourite, the tax return, as our example. If you planned to tackle the whole thing in one sitting, you might be very tempted to put that sitting off – for months.
I have a client who used to go through this same process every year. She would begin by blocking out a half day in her diary for the work; and then pushing that back by a week, and then doing that again. The next stage of procrastinating on her tax return was to look for a significant event in her diary that she, and I quote, “needed to get out the way first.” It was usually a birthday or a work event that she had to deal with first before moving on to the tax return.
Once she got over her compulsion to push her tax return away, she realised how much lighter she felt after it was submitted. She did admit to me that it took a couple of years of noticing this feeling until she was sold on the idea of being more organised. That’s very typical though, as adults we do take a little while to lose old habits and permanently establish new ones. This was a part of the work we did together.
So there is a great example of not beating yourself up over the process – just understanding that humans process change over time. It’s not like flicking a switch on or off.
The other thing my client now does it to break big tasks into smaller tasks, to make them more digestible and less of a big deal. So instead of that half day booking in her calendar that felt unappealing, she will now block out a couple of hours on two consecutive days. Day one is for the income portion of her books, and day two is for, you guessed it, expenses and then finally submitting it all to her accountant.
The final thing I want to suggest as a little sweetener from ‘eating that frog’, is to set up a little reward for yourself when you have done the big, unappealing task. If you have big tasks like this to tackle on a daily basis then that reward could be your coffee break and ten minutes outside in the fresh air before getting back to work. I’m all for taking breaks in between tasks – it helps us to acknowledge our progress, and improves our mood at the same time. Getting in a little more daylight also helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which many of us feel to some extent.
Whatever you are tackling at the moment, breaking it down into chunks and rewarding yourself afterwards is a great, self-care friendly approach. Now that the days are getting colder, shorter and busier, it’s the ideal time to get your focus together and finish this year on track. That way, when the busyness of the festive season arrives, you aren’t fighting off a backlog of tasks, but rather you are able to get into the spirit of the season.
So what ‘frogs’ are on your plate at the moment? See if you can apply this to your current challenges, and do let me know how you get on.