Simple shortcuts to business success #9: Stop starting again and eat the frog first


It’s time to start work.

You sit down at your computer and sip your coffee while you check your email, answer the items you can, make note of the things that need to be added to today’s to-do list, and file the things that can be filed. This takes half an hour.

At the end of that half hour you feel like you deserve a reward so ‘just quickly’ check Facebook and click through all your notifications. Gotta get rid of that annoying red number! Once you’re done there you’ve been at your desk for a whole hour so it’s time for a toilet break. Since you’re up you figure you may as well grab a quick cuppa.

By the time you get back to your desk more emails have dropped into your inbox so you figure you may as well deal with those before you get down to doing your work.

And the same pattern repeats itself again: you check emails, need a ‘mental break’ after doing so, quickly head to Facebook, get lost down a rabbit hole, feel like you need a break from your desk once you’re done there so get up from your desk.

Then you come back to your desk and … the whole thing starts again.

Well all have a bit of a ‘starting’ routine we do when we sit down at our desks to start work – and that starting routine usually involves ‘clearing our plate’ of all the little crappy jobs (like getting on top of our emails) before we start on the real/meaty work for the day. The thing is, by the time we’ve executed that starting routine three times, it’s lunch time and we’ve gotten nothing done. Then when we’re back from lunch, we do it again.

Before we know it, it’s 2pm and we STILL haven’t done any real work for the day yet. That’s when we put our heads down and try to get stuff done.

The problem is, by 2pm, we’re not at our productivity peak any more. It takes us longer to do even the simplest jobs so what do we do? The simplest jobs only. The hard jobs? They’re the ones still left on the to-do list at the end of the day. We think we’ll tackle those jobs ‘tomorrow when we’re feeling fresher’ but guess what – this same pattern will repeat itself tomorrow too.

Here’s what I know about those ‘big’ jobs – the longer we put them off for, the bigger they become in our minds. Then they get so big we never end up doing them at all.

The worst thing is, those ‘big’ or ‘hard’ jobs – they’re the business building ones.

  • The proposal to a new client or partner
  • That book you keep meaning to write
  • The website re-vamp you know is long overdue

So how do we get better at making time for these business building things?

  1. Be aware of this ‘starting’ routine you do and be honest about the drain on your productivity it is.
  2. Mandate to yourself that you get to do that ‘starting’ routine once only (if that) and then, before you do anything else (Facebook, other smaller, ‘easier’ job) you must eat the frog first.

Here’s Brian Tracy – the one who popularised the ‘eat the frog first’ concept:

“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 with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day long. Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.”

Those business building tasks I mentioned above – once you start tackling them as the first point of order for the day you’ll be amazed at how quickly they move from ‘to-do’ to ‘done’.

Your days will also start getting more enjoyable because you won’t be spending your afternoons trying (and failing) to muster the willpower to do hard stuff. You’ll be spending that time doing your more ‘fun’ jobs instead.

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